Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where Does Publicity End and Copyright Begin?

Pondering after a story that was clearly a website-only "mechanical" was picked up by a local newspaper word-for-word as if we had sent that story out as a publicity release.

On the one hand, we want our media outlets to help promote events.

On the other, the reality is on some level, our web sites compete for the attention of consumers.

The issue is as fresh as the news. Just this week, two media groups -- New York Times and Huffington Post -- found themselves sued by bloggers for copyright infringement. (Click here for GateHouse against NYT; here for Huffington's troubles.)

I do not have the answer here -- and would be interested in some of the reader's feedback.

Certainly, when we write press releases that we send to our media outlets, we intend on them to be used verbatim. We don't ask for credit, but many outlets do that to differentiate between staff written and externally written copy.

This question relates to when we write something that is only for our site -- the term I use is a "mechanical." The only reason the short blurb existed was to create a vehicle to hang links to a game -- tickets, video, live stats, etc. It was a promo that only turned on within 24 hours of the event. My surprise when that appears in the paper.

This incident is truly insignificant, but it gets me wondering. As we begin to create more and more original content for our websites -- live blogs, in-house columns -- and some of that belongs to premium services -- not as much for us, but I know it is at other schools -- where is the line between publicity and copyright?

Judging from this week's national news, I don't think this is going away.

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