Lawyers Meet Syndication

    May 17, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Issues of copyright, collaboration, and fair use have become more of a concern, and the lawyers at the Syndicate Conference panel, “The Legalities of Blogging,” acknowledged they are the bad news on the flip side of syndication’s good news.

Editor’s Note: Discuss the copyright issues facing bloggers and syndication alike at SyndicationPro.

How many lawyers does it take to fix a computer so they can give a presentation? WebProNews publisher Rich Ord noted the panel’s response to this was “four,” as they exorcised the dark angel of demos from their hardware before discussing the important issues of blogging and the law.

“Battles are being fought and new rules considered,” said David Smallman of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, PC. “We are looking at Creative Commons, fair use, the universal declaration of human rights, libel, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and more.

“But for now the fundamental rules apply.” Smallman noted his firm plans to publish a handbook online about the legal issues of syndication.

Brian Murphy from the same firm said it is important to recognize that the law is always trying to catch up to technology.

“Generally speaking, a copyrighted work may not be used or copied – in whole or in part – without permission…subject to a few exceptions. You almost always have to ask for permission,” he said.

The federal government is an exception to that, so bloggers can feel free to appropriate from it.

Fair use came up in the conversation, and Murphy listed some of the factors surrounding that:

1. purpose and character of use
2. nature of copyrighted work
3. amount and substantiality of portion used relative to entire copyrighted work
4. effect of use upon potential market and value of copyrighted work.

Written agreements will be important. Murphy said he would have no idea how to respond to a question from a client who wants to use a work created collaboratively by 17 people with no agreement in place.

Rich Ord asked the panel about fair use and full-text feeds: “If a blogger or publisher offers a full text RSS feed are they in effect giving consent for others to republish their content?” and provided us with the ensuing discussion:

Julie Fenster, Vice President and General Counsel for Waterfront Media, Inc, answered that at first that if they offer a full text feed they are giving consent … but it is subject to fair use … so they can on an individual basis take it away. A series of follow-up questions came from myself and the audience, and Julie backed away from this statement somewhat. David stated that the more conservative courts may eventually rule a much tighter standard that would lean toward protecting RSS feeds from being reused.

Chad Milton, SVP National Practice Leader, Media & Intellectual Property, Marsh, touched on the issue of indemnity for media and intellectual property. The size of the company matters to the insurers.

Small firms may find the pace insurers take in deciding to sell insurance against such claims could be a leisurely one; the insurance companies don’t know just what they are getting into yet.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.