Friday, April 23, 2010

The Brave Online World of Linking, Borrowing and Attributing (Or Not)

This week’s column is about former Vice President Al Gore and his cable channel Current TV, which were taken to court in San Francisco for using an Orinda photographer’s work without permission or payment. After a few months of legal battles Mr. Gore and company won this past week, proving that Goliath can indeed beat David.


Current TV did not deny that it used the photography of Ken R. Light on its Web site without his consent. They argued that by the rules currently governing the Internet, they could do what they wanted. A San Francisco judge agreed, overturning the small-claims-court judgment Mr. Light had won, which had received some local media attention.


I can’t claim to be dispassionate about this issue. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that professionals should be paid for their labor, including writers, musicians and artists. The Napster-era view that when creative work becomes digital, it can suddenly be copied and distributed for free is all too often just an excuse for theft.


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