Copyright Abuse by Media Bullies

This really gets me angry:

Last week, I send out a few test notices about RR&A to a handful of people in my address book — less than 30. I get a phone call and email from XXXXX, who works for XXXXXXXX, an (obviously) major media company.

This person informs me that "I owe them money for reprints" that are posted In the section labelled "In the Press."

Excuse me?

Now, I use, refer to and reference alot of other work by other people on the blog. I am meticulous about giving appropriate credit, and I very much try to stay squarely within the boundaries of "Fair Use."  I do not merely reproduce in whole or substantial part, entire articles, but rather, take snippets, a paragraph or three, a chart — and then annotate/comment/add value extensively on them.

On the pro site, there is even less of that.

Anyway, this weasel starts haranguing me for a reprint fee. What reprint? What are you talking about? I couldn’t figure out what the hell they were going on and on about. There are no PDFs (except my own) and very little in was of reproduced content from anyone else.

Until it dawns on me — the links? WTF?!? You want to charge me for pointing to an article of yours? (GET ME LEGAL!).

I go off on her, cite old case law that this was resolved in the 1990s, and then ask her "What’s with the not-so-subtle litigation threats?"  I politely tell them to take a flying f%$# at a rolling donut, and suggest she contact legal and Sue me!

That was last week, and by now, I have done the slow burn: Instead of selling a legitimate product — reprints, PDFs, mailer inserts, etc. — there are some weasel salespeople who (with the apparent power of a major media firm behind them) scare/bully/bluff people who do not know better in paying for something that is free.

Here’s my promise: The next time one of you copyright weasels tries this, you become my new hobby.


Consider yourself warned.

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. fiat lux commented on Jun 19

    I would have pulled the link — not out of fear of any bogus lawsuit, but rather to prevent said jerks from getting any more of your valuable web traffic.

    Put them on the ‘Dead to Me’ list & move on.

  2. Damian commented on Jun 19

    Why not reveal the magazine? What’s up with that?

  3. DaveF commented on Jun 19

    This is what happens when you have a down market, too many of us novices down know how to short well; you don’t have a gig on Kudlow so you can’t pick pn cody; the whole world goes goes to hell. But don’t worry, there’s always tomorrow! Cody might be back!

  4. trader75 commented on Jun 19

    Two questions:

    1) anyone have a link to a good explanation of ‘fair use’ and the basic guidelines for respecting it.

    2) fair lux (or anyone), how did you get that hyperlink into your comment.


  5. DaveF commented on Jun 19

    OK, to be more sympathetic, my lawyer says you can’t sue them for being stupid and trying to charge for something they aren’t entitled to. He claims if you could sue people for being stupid he’s be rich by now. Sorry Barry.

  6. Kevin commented on Jun 19

    “Next time (fill in antagonistic action), you become my new hobby.”

    What an awesome threat! Do you mind if I steal it as my default replacement for “I will end you?” I promise to cite you.

  7. emd commented on Jun 19

    good for you. don’t let them roll you.

    btw, i think davef has been drinking. i have absolutely no clue what his post is about.

  8. HT commented on Jun 19

    ‘New hobby’ is good, but let’s not forget

    “Go ahead, make my day”,


    Harrison Ford’s threat to the IRA guys–“It will become my mission in life!”


  9. wayne commented on Jun 19

    Go Barry, Go! Scorched earth. Reach down their throats and pull out their hearts! Go postal! Use the nuclear option. Sadamize them!

  10. Barry Ritholtz commented on Jun 19

    It is a very large firm that graces these pages regularly.

    I suspect they do not know what is being done in their name by low levers sales-scum.

    Hence, the benefit of the doubt/anonymous discussion.

  11. toddZ commented on Jun 19

    How much money did they want? I know that’s not the argument, but I’m just curious.

  12. David J Phillips commented on Jun 19

    They should be thanking you for the free publicity! Anyone & everybody is free to quote from my investment blog, , as long as they do not reprint out of context [which has been done] to “re-shape” the original bullish or bearish tone & they credit the referenced source!

  13. ~ Nona commented on Jun 19

    Your big media friend should have called to thank you — effusively — for the mention and visibility.

    While it’s good to get public notice, I also understand her position: writers are becoming frustrated by the fact that the Internet is cutting their reprint incomes.

    I always tell my writer friends that back in the last century (ancient history, I believe) when radio station and record recording sound got good enough to begin playing music on the air, the record companies went into an overdrive frenzy about how this practice, if allowed to continue, would cause a precipitous drop in record sales, etc., that the stations were, in effect, stealing their property, etc.

    Of course, we know the rest of the story. Once the record companies realized that radio air time sold far many more records than anything the record companies could ever come up with, they did much more than simply embrace the stations: they actively courted them.

    If you pass this on this small piece of history to your media friend, and if she has (a dash of)imagination, she’ll get the point.

    Well, she MIGHT get the point.

    P.S.: We’d all love to know who she was but, of course, you must never tell us.

  14. toddZ commented on Jun 20


    Radio stations pay annual royalty fees to ASCAP which total millions of dollars a year!

  15. ~ Nona commented on Jun 20

    That’s right, toddZ! Good reminder; thanks for bringing it up.

    In the same vein, ditto the (perceived) threat of book clubs, when they were first introduced. The clubs ended up selling many more books for book stores.

    Promotion and sales channels are changing thanks to the Internet (creative destruction and all that) but there are some underlying principles that keep popping up again and again. We have to wait to see how they’ll reassert themselves in this new environment.

  16. fiat lux commented on Jun 20

    Hrm, I was trying to link to a page on Colbert Nation with his current ‘dead to me’ list but apparently the blog software here is smart & turned it into something else.

  17. angela commented on Jun 20

    The owner of information has a perfect right to hide it or it allowing an open link to protect it. If they don’t protect it and I can show you a huge number of sites that require passwords then they’ve left it wide open.

    This isn’t the responsibility of anyone who points to that link. Usually when someone builds such a link they want people to look at it.

    In this context the statement:

    “While it’s good to get public notice, I also understand her position: writers are becoming frustrated by the fact that the Internet is cutting their reprint incomes.”

    is completely absurd. If’s stupid. It’s not the linker who is responsible for the nature of posted material. It’s whoever posts it.

  18. angela commented on Jun 20


    What you’re saying is that you find it understandable if a publisher wants to forbid others from naming the title, author and other identifying material of a book because then others could find it.

    A link simply points to material. It is not understandable for someone to want to charge for it’s use. It’s a shakedown designed to get naive people to pay a few bucks. It is ugly.

  19. John commented on Jun 20

    Give them hell!! Excellent Sir and never ever give into FUD….Fear, Uncertain, Doubt..

  20. Bob A commented on Jun 20

    I agree with you Barry, but seriously, isn’t our daily life FULL of examples of all kinds of major firms that …. scare/bully/bluff people who do not know better into paying for something that …..they either don’t need, could get for free, isn’t good for them, substitutes for something that does the same thing better or for less, etc etc etc etc.
    BUYER BEWARE. No matter who’s trying to sell you anything. Business for the most part has no morals.

  21. trader75 commented on Jun 20

    Check this out, egregious example of copyright hysteria: Target refused to print this woman’s digital photos because they looked too ‘professional’. Talk about fear mongering.

  22. ~ Nona commented on Jun 20

    Trader 74, I’m afraid to say that I don’t think Target’s liability concern is fear mongering. Alas.

    Can we just agree that this is another example of the excessive concerns companies have — and must have — re: potential lawsuits, including juries run amok?

  23. angela commented on Jun 20

    No Nona, you can not.

    If target had evidence that the photos were a violation of copyright then it could block.

    But now you are saying a company has the duty to refuse production of someone’s personal work because it might rival and threaten established companies.

    This indeed is what a lot of dvd and other producers are trying to do, in some cases it is difficult or impossible for a person to copy their own work. The goal is to prevent the transmission of material that is not controlled by the big players.

    Target would not be under any real risk of lawsuit as long as they took reasonable efforts to avoid transmission of copyright worked and since judgements are based on economic costs the risk they ran there was trivial.

    The risk they run fior discriminating against a consumer is much higher.

    The idea that you hold that large corporations should be able to control all information transmission, that they should even be able to prevent people from linking to a public article is repugnant. What you are saying is that if someone criticizes a publicly posted article and links to it and undoubtedly you believe fair usage quotes are wrong, then the publisher of that article should be able to sue the critic. George Bush would love that. No Democrate would be allowed to quote his speeches in your perfect world.

    Fo back to Cuba babe!

  24. trader75 commented on Jun 20

    Right, I meant general fear mongering by copyright weasels leading to fear-based policies handed down by pickaninny Target execs (courtesy of chicken little lawyers no doubt).

  25. jjr commented on Jun 21

    Barry, you have only scratched the surface layer of dust off of the new new model of American Capitalism. It’s all about that nebulous intellectual property, and how to monetize it. I deal in the creative business, as a documentary filmmaker, and copyrights are the bane of our existance in this world.

    Heavy-handed copyright enforcement is not a valid long-term strategy for us as a society. Peons like the chick you scolded don’t think about the big picture. But, I’m sure you’re smart enough to understand that creativity is very rarely a process of autochtonous discovery. Creativity is an act of working with the art of your forebears. The more we move to stifle this as a society, the less creative we will become. Word.

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