Friday, July 6, 2012

Something Awful This Way Comes

I'm new at public blogging. I have very few readers at the moment and I ok with that. I'd be tickled pink if someone actually linked to a post I had written, even if they were pointing out the total lack of polish in my writing. However, if I happened to stumble across one of my posts on another site, with no attribution, I'd be a bit peeved. And shocked. Musn't forget shocked because I honestly don't think I've said anything worth stealing. Quotes, links, mentions, all ok, even if people are being rude about me. Stealing, not ok. Here's where it gets fun: some people don't know the difference!

I first came on this story over at Popehat, a blog I've been reading for a few months now, mainly authored by Ken, but occasionally authored by Patrick and David. Over at SomethingAwful, I site I'd never heard of prior to this incident and not one I'm likely to frequent, a discussion took place back in 2010 about what, in the users' opinions, were truly terrible political cartoons. One of the cartoonists recently discovered her work was a topic of discussion, and in a less-than-flattering manner. Her name is Donna Barstow. It seems that she doesn't understand the concept of fair use of copyrighted works and has since gone to full afterburner on the crazy scale.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, fair use is what lets students, critics, reporters, and the like quote directly from printed works or show short excerpts of visual works for the purpose of illustrating the reasons for their own original statements. As defined by Wikipedia (a source I've found to be fairly reliable for non-controversial subjects) fair use is as follows:
Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test.
An example of fair use would be that block quote above: it's a short snippet from the original work, I cited the original source material in the link above it and in the BLOCKQUOTE attribute behind the scenes. If I had simply posted it with no citations, even if I hadn't explicitly stated it was my own original thought, people would assume I was claiming it as my own work. That is stealing, or at least dancing on the edge of it, and bad blogging. I learned a long time ago that you should always be prepared to cite your source.

Ms. Barstow, on the other hand, is completely oblivious to this concept. She somehow found some of her editorial cartoons in a Something Awful forum about, shockingly, bad editorial cartoons. Since she seems to specialize in a single-panel format, of course entire cartoons have been posted to the forum. The fact that the forum is specifically intended for criticism, and her work is actually criticized, that makes it fair use. Ms. Barstow is having none of it. She is claiming defamation, copyright infringement, and of course, EVIL. And possibly racism, I'm not entirely clear on that aspect, but I suspect that she isn't either. Some people are encouraging her to sue, others are trying to tell her to sit down and shut up, but she doesn't seem to be doing anything except running around, flailing her arms, and screaming life is unfair. Oh, and she's sending out DMCA take-down notices apparently.

Someone, apparently intent upon stoking an epic Internet fail the likes of which we haven't seen since, well, last week, has suggested she not only go after Something Awful, but 4chan as well. I've never heard of this site either, and cannot vouch for any content you may find if you follow the link. I don't know if any of her cartoons are there are not. What I do know is apparently Ms. Barstow thinks that 4chan and BBC 4 are the same thing. I cannot wait for her lunacy to hit the monolithic entity that is the BBC and their legal department. That will truly be epic.

Theft is theft, and is wrong. Scraping blog entries or entire websites and presenting them whole with no comment as your own is also wrong. Calling someone a censorious asshat (h/t to Popehat for that) when they are behaving like a censorious asshat is just truth. Donna Barstow, in her complete misunderstanding of Fair Use, is acting like a censorious asshat, and needs to be called on it.

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