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The entire web as “public domain”?

Nov 7th, 2010 | By

Can your blog posting, or article published on the web, be taken by a publication and used without your permission, because putting it on the web makes it in the “public domain”? One magazine, Cooks Source, believes the answer to be yes, and that’s what they actually told blogger Monica Gaudio after they swiped one of her posts and printed it (they included her byline, but edited it to suit themselves). Cooks Source apparently did the same with many other peoples’ posts as well. The publication,  by the way, is “a free, ad-supported (and therefore revenue-generating) magazine,” according to NPR’s Linda Holmes, who sums up the whole sordid tale here.

Of course this raises larger issues about publishing and information flow on the web. Re-posting of blogs on the web isn’t a good practice, although summarizing or paraphrasing a post and then linking to the original is ok. Printing that post, byline or not, edited or not, with no permission granted or fee negotiated is a straight-out rights grab. Freelancers, web journalists, watch your backs! You own the rights to your work from the moment you create it; put a copyright (c) on your ms. or blog posting, so that you have given notice. Copyrights are the content creators’ to sell or withhold, as they see fit. Enforcement of the copyright law is difficult for freelancers (bloggers included), but a rights-grab is a rights-grab, and it isn’t ok.

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