A little while ago Slaw got an email pointing out that one of our stories linked an excerpt from an author’s work to a “splog” and not to the site where the author originally put it. As well, we were reminded that extensive quoting from sources might best be done with permission, if it didn’t in fact infringe on copyright. Of course we set things right as soon as we could. But the email got me thinking about weblogs and copyright — and wondering what “splogs” were.
The latter is easier to tackle. Splogs are blogs that find their content exclusively in the publishings of other weblogs — they are “spam + blogs,” the aim of which is to make money out of the enterprise of others. Cash comes in because of Google ads, typically. The theory is that ads on real weblogs are by and large uninteresting to visitors, who come for the content; but those who arrive in splogs will find themselves with “wrong” content and “right” ads, and so will click on the ads. Mark Cuban, businessman and media moghul, who has an informative piece on this phenomenon for those who’d like to learn more, estimates that more than a million of these “zombies” (kill ‘em and they keep on coming) have been combed out of one weblog search engine, to no permanent effect.
I thought of splogs again recently because of a new Web 2.0 app, Clipmarks. This is a web page clipping tool that seems quite handy for doing research. It sits in your toolbar and serves to snip and save on the company’s server selected chunks of a web page; you can add metadata as you wish; and you can search and tag your clippings. All of which makes it a useful research tool.
But — you can also make your clippings public, so that others can search and see them, which makes that portion of the Clipmarks site a splog, so far as I’m concerned, albeit a splog that’s created by volunteer minions. There’s only a small-type hotlink back to the page from which the clip was taken by way of attribution. And their “copyright” page says, in effect, please let us know if we’ve stepped on anyone’s toes and we may fix it. But a mea maybe culpa shouldn’t cover their corporate glutei maximi, I’d guess.
How about Slaw? Is good attribution enough when we quote? How extensive a quotation is fair use? Are we in a “better” position because Slaw is non-commercial? I’m more ignorant of copyright law than I ought to be, and so one of my New Year’s resolutions is to brush up my IP knowledge, at least enough to know when Slaw is close to the line. Feel free, Slawyers, to educate me.