Vague Assertions of Copyright Infringement

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I was all set to do a brief post about the odd nature of the party system in Ireland, and I was planning on citing a single sentence in a Financial Times article as illustrating the point. But look what happened when tried to copy the sentence and paste it here:

“Please use the link to reference this article. Do not copy & paste articles which is a breach of FT.com’s Ts&Cs (www.ft.com/servicestools/help/terms) and is copyright infringement. Send a link for free or email ftsales.support@ft.com to purchase rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/63dd1d9a-f634-11df-a313-00144feab49a.html#ixzz161PAjF27

Polls suggest Fine Gael, the conservative opposition party, will form a coalition with Labour, its traditional allies to become the next Irish government.

Obviously the FT can define its terms of service however it wants. I’m a paying customer of theirs since I find they deliver one of the few news products that it’s consistently worth paying for. But if what I’m paying for is going to include a broad prohibition on copy and pasting any portion of the text of their articles I think I’ll probably reconsider that decision. But the larger issue here is the assertion that this copyright infringement. Says who? People have always been allowed to quote other people’s copyrighted works. There’s an article here in the FT that quotes from a Human Rights Watch report. Was that copyright infringement? Did the author studiously avoid copy-and-pasting and instead retype the offending sentence? Was the quote negotiated in advance by lawyers?

It sometimes happens that I see entire posts from this blog copied and pasted elsewhere, and I of course don’t like it. People shouldn’t do that. But ability to quote and cite freely is integral to the spread of ideas.

(Meanwhile it’s odd that the “conservative opposition party” is “traditional allies” with Labour—weird system)


To be clear as to what I’m complaining about here, when I copied the sentence — a single sentence — and then pasted it into wordpress, the anti-copying bit was automatically pasted along with it. It’s not just a policy statement against copying whole articles (which of course people shouldn’t do) it’s an intervention against any copying and pasting.

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