Could DCW Face Closure? Could the Philadelphia Jewish Voice?

The post below was written for Democratic Convention Watch, but could also easily apply to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice. Please support independent voices by raising yours. 

Oreo thinks we might have to shut down if SOPA passes, as he wrote here. When you look at his post, you'll see that he reprinted two things: part of a blog post, and a press release. Under SOPA in its current form, it's possible that we would be in violation of the law for reposting the blog post. Press releases, as a rule, are rarely copyrighted, as the writers want their material to be disseminated. So, if TechDirt wanted to, under SOPA, its owners could take action against DCW.

In the past, we have abided by the Fair Use Doctrine, which allows us to quote, without prior permission, a small amount of published material under the doctrine: (source here)

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.” 

In fact, back in 2009, we posted on the fair use doctrine, added it to our FAQs,  have stuck to it, and have deleted comments and posts (from commenters) that violated the doctrine. It's likely, though, that we missed a post from a commenter which looked like original material but was really reposted. 

There is also the issue of photographs and graphics, which may not always be legit to use. The beauty of the internet: someone posts a great graphic, and it gets passed around. 

The point is, we have always worked to stay within the law. We have provided straight news and commentary, and striven mightily to make this a place where people can come and give their opinions, and discussion is fostered. 

We, the DCW team, look forward to getting into high gear in January and making this election year something special through our reporting, our projections, and our insights. We are hoping that you, community members we adore, join the conversation. 

SOPA could change all that by placing us in a position where if someone came after us, we could face court and the huge amount of dollars it would cost to fight any charges. It appears that once charged, shutting down wouldn't be the solution: we would be forced to go to court based on the specific charges. Further, we would be liable for anything in any of the comments, although potentially if we removed something in violation within an hour or two of its posting, we might be in the clear. Remember, when something is posted, even if we remove it, it still exists in a cached copy somewhere. We don't have the manpower to go all the way back to our start in 2005, and check everything. Someone from the wacko right, however, certainly would have the manpower, the time, and the money, to do so. 

It's looking more and more like there will be delays to keep SOPA at bay for most of next year. It's also possible that it gets squelched because of many technical details which will be investigated by the House Judicial Committee. Virtually every organization that represents the internet, the technical people, and civil rights groups all oppose this legislation. But it's not a certainty.

If SOPA passes, we'll look at it, consider the legal opinions, and most likely shut it all down. We'd hate that, and we'd like to think you'd hate it, too. And it wouldn't just be us: there is a likelihood that the only left wing internet sources that would survive are those with deep pockets, like Kos, HuffPost, and FDL. 

So, PLEASE, because Freedom of Speech is worth fighting for, do two things:

  1. Write (don't call, WRITE) your Congressmen and Senators and tell them that you're opposed to SOPA.
  2. Forward this post to everyone you know and ask them to write, too. 

On behalf of the team, I'm asking you to take action. We love what we do, and even when “real life” cuts the amount of time we have for posting, we are committed to doing what we can. Please help DCW keep its voice. 


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