Follow-up: Copyright and the New York Times

Boston Phoenix editor Carly Carioli catches the New York Times again — and talks it over with Times columnist Joe Nocera.

Copyright hypocrisy at the New York Times

Last Saturday the New York Times posted a PDF of a 1976 article by the legendary Boston sports journalist Clark Booth that appeared in the Real Paper, an alternative weekly that was published for several years in the 1970s. The article accompanied a column by Joe Nocera on football injuries, about which Booth wrote perceptively some 36 years ago.

I have to confess I didn’t think twice about copyright, figuring Booth, whom Nocera interviewed, had given him permission to reproduce his words. But now Boston Phoenix editor Carly Carioli has pointed out — rightly, in my view — that, in fact, the Times has violated the Real Paper’s copyright and that of the photographer(s) whose work was reproduced. And since the Phoenix acquired the Real Paper’s assets when the paper went out of business, the Times must answer to the Phoenix.

The Times’ reproduction clearly fails the fair-use test, most obviously on the grounds that it reposted the Real Paper article not for the purpose of commentary and criticism, but so that its readers could enjoy reading it. I imagine the Times could also get whacked for taking too much of the article (i.e., the whole thing). Even though it would be tough to argue that anyone lost any money as a result of the Times’ actions, another important fair-use test, I’d guess a judge would favor the Phoenix if it ever came to that.

But Carioli is not concerned with the negligible harm the Times has done to the Phoenix so much as he is with the behemoth’s rank hypocrisy. Former executive editor Bill Keller, now a Times columnist, has been obsessed with the nefarious forces whom he believes have been improperly profiting from Times content. And, Carioli notes, the Times reached out and killed a pretty cool iPad app called Pulse merely because it reproduced headlines without permission.

Writing that “copyright in this country is a goddamn mess,” Carioli continues: “We want an internet and an intellectual-property regime that rewards discovery and innovation. We won’t get it with copyright construed the way it is now.”

And we won’t get it with the Times saying one thing and doing another.

Addenda: (1) I had the privilege of copy-editing Clark Booth’s weekly sports column for a short time in 1990, when I was working at the Pilot, for whom he still writes; (2) you can also read Booth in the Dorchester Reporter.

Disclosure: I’m a contributor to the Phoenix, and was a staff member from 1991 to 2005. I have a standing disclosure here, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to remind people.

Debating Keystone, the environment and the Chinese

I honestly had no intention of using Storify again today, or even any time soon. But after Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and I tweeted back and forth over the merits of Joe Nocera’s New York Times column on the Keystone XL pipeline, Reuters media critic Jack Shafer said I should post it. So here it is. The world will little note nor long remember …

[View the story “Hot liberal-on-liberal action” on Storify]

Say it ain’t so, Frank Rich

Frank Rich

When you get to my age, you look for your thrills where you can find them. Come Saturday night, I usually find myself asking … Should I read Frank Rich now, or save it until the morning?

So I was shocked to learn this morning that Rich, one of our leading liberal commentators, is leaving the New York Times for New York Magazine, where he’ll write a monthly essay. He’ll edit and lead some online conversations as well.

It’s not the first time Rich has grown restless. He was the Times’ chief drama critic from 1980 to 1993, and I think it’s his theatrical sense that makes his political commentary so sharp and entertaining.

This is not good news for me, and I’m sure many other Times readers feel the same way. New York Magazine has a good reputation, but I can’t picture myself subscribing or seeking it out online. Other than the occasional must-read media feature, it just isn’t compelling enough for me to change longstanding habits.

In 2000 I ran into Rich at an event for gay Republicans at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, which I was covering for the Boston Phoenix. I asked him about the collective nervous breakdown the media were having over the lack of news at George W. Bush’s coronation. Here’s what he told me:

Not to be too Freudian about it, but what you’re seeing is a sort of displacement. There are 15,000 reporters here and no story. What are they going to talk about? Themselves and their own anxiety.

It will be interesting to see whether the Times tries to recruit a big-name replacement for Rich. (Maybe it will be Joe Nocera, who’s moving from the business pages to the op-ed section.) With the exception of Paul Krugman and David Brooks, I just don’t find the rest of the paper’s opinion writers all that compelling.

Rich had one of the best jobs in journalism. I guess it shows that anything can get boring after a while.

Mirror, Mirror, not on my wall

I’m in New York, where I attended the Mirror Awards luncheon sponsored by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. My weekly online column in The Guardian was up for an award in media commentary, but I lost to Joe Nocera of the New York Times.

Editor & Publisher has a thorough rundown on the proceedings here. The theme of the event, as you will see, was the life of Tim Russert, who had been scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award. Brian Williams accepted on his behalf. One discordant note: the set-up video included a brief tribute from Dick Cheney, who infamously lied to Russert in September 2003. I do believe I heard some murmurs, a sign that I wasn’t the only one who thought including Cheney was inappropriate.

The event was held in the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center, which was pretty cool. Hick that I am, I’d never even heard of the place until I was invited to attend. Good food, amazing view, even on an overcast day like today.

Cellphone smackdown!

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera doesn’t like his Treo (sub. req.) — and he blames Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg. To wit:

Maybe I should never have believed The Wall Street Journal’s technology guru, Walt Mossberg, who wrote in early 2006 that “Palm’s Treo smartphones have been the best high-end cellphones on the market, with the finest combination of voice, e-mail and Web-browsing capabilities in a hand-held device.”…

Maybe, if my due diligence had gone beyond reading Mr. Mossberg, I might have realized that the Treo was far more trouble than it was worth.

Whoa! Nothing yet on Mossberg’s Web site, All Things D, but I imagine he’ll fire a return volley before the weekend is out.

But hold on. Here is the January 2006 Mossberg review to which Nocera refers. It’s a review not of the 700p, which has made Nocera’s life such a living hell, but of the 700w, which runs a completely different operating system — Windows Mobile rather than the Palm OS, which Nocera fingers as his culprit (other than Mossberg). True, Mossberg said nice things about the Palm OS, but the 700p hadn’t even been released yet.
Then, in June 2006, Mossberg was back with a review of the then-brand-new 700p, a good seven months before Nocera made his purchase. Here’s an excerpt:

In our tests, over a couple of weeks, the Treo 700p performed well. Web browsing was a pleasure at the new high speeds. Our only complaint was a short but annoying lag in displaying the text of emails and in performing certain other operations. Also, our test unit crashed twice and had to be restarted. (It didn’t lose any data in the crash.)

It crashed twice in a couple of weeks, eh? Did Nocera notice that? Sounds like a pretty good harbinger of the problems he describes today.

Nocera has complained about his toys previously without taking, uh, due diligence. If he can’t slip one past a tech doofus like me, he ought to find another subject.