Thursday, May 31, 2012

BAD NETIZENS: Maryland Juice Receives Legal Threats from AOL, Arianna Huffington, The Patch & DLA Piper // SHOVE IT

Where do I even begin? Maryland Juice is currently traveling on the West Coast, and I woke up to an alarming email message from the international lawfirm DLA Piper. It seems that the firm represents AOL, who in turn are the corporate owners of The Huffington Post and They have issued a cease and desist letter over my excerpting of a article and photo about accessory apartments in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Before I delve into the nuances of copyright law and the current abuse of "cease and desist" letters by lawfirms (like DLA Piper) who "troll" for "violations," let me highlight a few fundamental points. First and foremost, the Internet works best with a free-flow of information and both The Huffington Post and The Patch rely on tons of free writing from bloggers to enrich AOL and build readership. Maryland Juice has never complained about people reprinting articles, stealing article leads, swiping content, or otherwise spreading the gospel of the Juice -- even if the re-publication is unattributed. Believe me, it happens to me all the time. even affirmatively grants readers license to re-publish content: "All original content on is available for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License." Such is the way of the Internet and a hyper-networked world. For Maryland political and policy coverage specifically, has always tried to be a good neighbor Netizen, by encouraging readers to check out local news at other writers' blogs, newspapers, etc. (on both the right and the left, the mainstream media and the personal). I think doing so helps build aggregate readership for local news and creates a sum of the parts that is greater than the impact of the individual sites working alone.

In fact, earlier this month Maryland Juice participated in a Live Chat on with the site's political editors. It was great fun and a good community-building effort for area politicos. But leave it to big corporations and crap-ass copyright trolls to ruin it all.

DLA Piper has a history of boneheaded cease & desist letters. Here are some examples of their awesomeness:

In any case, check out the cease & desist letter I received from DLA Piper & AOL today, and my response below:

Patch, AOL, Huffington Post, DLA Piper Letter to Maryland Juice

FAIR USE DOCTRINE: What DLA Piper seems to ignore, is that U.S. Copyright law (which is in itself antiquated and no longer functioning in the public interest) protects the "fair use" of copyrighted works. See Wikipedia's excerpt of 17 U.S.C. § 107 below:
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

So here is Maryland Juice's response to DLA Piper:

Maryland Juice also made an art project out of the photo in question:

Photo source for this art project: Wheaton Patch - May 22, 2012

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