Dale wrote:I really appreciate this discussion and, when I get some time, I'll try to do more in-depth study so that I can either be clearer about my concerns or I can reverse my position on this. In the meantime, I'll try to say a bit more about it.
One of the two incidents I've had I'd rather not discuss on the board. It ended up perfectly well, but there are some people involved I don't want to call out publicly. Also, in fairness, it really doesn't apply that well.
The other incident was from a few years ago when I re-published, in much of the same way that jim has, an article from the Irish Times about Paddy Moloney playing the whistle at 9/11 Ground Zero. I admired the piece, and I think I put it in its entirety, with full credit to the author and the Irish Times, in the newsletter. (Which, of course, is archived on the web.) At some point, thru the miracle of Google, I heard from the author who billed me. I responded promptly and courteously and she withdrew with equal courtesy but reminded me that it would have been no problem at all had I requested permission, which I hadn't done.
Recall that C&F has some revenue stream, such as it is, generated by those lovely little Google ads at the top of the pages. It offsets some expenses, but that's about it. We're not exactly raking in cash up in here, but some money comes in (and goes out.)
In any case, I do believe that an author ought to retain some control over where her copyrighted material appears. I do think there is a potential of wronging an author by reproducing a work, especially an entire work, without her permission.
If I understand you, the new policy isn't motivated by a legal worry. So let's set aside legal issues. The policy flows from a moral concern. The principle is that an author ought to retain some control over where her copyrighted material appears. There is a potential of wronging an author by reproducing an entire work without her permission.
Now I think there is an appropriate response to the problem you relate above concerning the Newsletter, namely, get the author's consent before you publish her piece. The principle you express covers that. But I also think that expanding this policy to the whole board is over-reaching and unwarranted by your principle. Let me explain.
Consider this principle: 'I have the moral right to decide what happens in and to my own body.'
This certainly sounds true. In a medical situation, doctors need my informed consent before they treat me–barring the emergency where I'm found unconscious and they can't consult me.
But suppose I argue 'As I have the moral right to decide what happens in and to my own body, I therefore have the moral right to fry my brain on LSD, mainline heroin, refuse to wear a seatbelt, and commit suicide whenever I like.' I think most folks would feel that something is going wrong here. The principle is plausible in a medical context but it doesn't clearly apply outside one--to these cases, for instance.
Of course I might stick to my guns and insist 'The principle DOES apply just the same across the board, from surgery to LSD!' In that case we might well respond that the principle turns out to be more controversial than we thought; indeed, it looks false–though it's true if it's limited to a medical context.
Now consider your principle: an author ought to retain some control over where her copyrighted material appears. That makes sense in places like books, journals, magazines and newsletters, that is, in venues that count as what we usually think of as 'publications.' But what of this case? At many universities a professor teaching a seminar will photocopy a journal article (one she wishes to discuss) and put it in a box in the department office–students, anybody around who is interested, in fact, can read or photocopy it. The author isn't consulted. This greatly facilitates getting material into people's hands. (We've set aside legal issues, remember; anyhow, nobody seems to be having any legal trouble with this.)
If somebody objects that this should be stopped because 'the author ought to retain some control over where her copyrighted material appears,' many would respond that the principle doesn't apply to this case–this isn't the sort of 'appearance' that makes the principle intuitive. If somebody objects that we are wronging the authors, that would be a bit silly. This sort of thing is what the authors wish to happen. And if somebody insisted that it's still wrong, it's just a 'matter of principle' that an author ought to retain some control over where her copyrighted material appears, no matter how or where, I suppose it would be sensible to answer that, if that's how it's to be construed, the principle is doubtful.
In short, there are cases where your principle doesn't easily apply or (if we stick to our guns and apply it anyway) is rendered implausible. It probably applies to the Newsletter, a traditional publication, one you send to thousands of people. As it's common practice to consult in such cases, the appearance in it of the Irish lady's piece creates the impression that she has consented to be associated with the notorious Mr. Wisely. She might not want that.
It's more doubtful that your principle applies to a post on the Political Board, sent to nobody, that creates no appearance that the author is associated with the poster (who is just Joe Blow putting in his two cents on a discussion board, not the owner of chiffandfipple). Indeed, the whole Poli Board is invisible to non-members and even to members when they don't log in. Surely this is the realm of plain, flat-out discussion, not a 'publication'; it's the sort of thing that, at the end of the day, has to happen somewhere, where we can say what we think and post what we want (civility respected), where we don't have to be fussy, and where applying your principle is a stretch.
Obviously you are right: one can wrong an author by reproducing her work without her permission. But it's hard to believe we're going to wrong anybody by publishing the stuff we do on the Poli Board. Of course somebody somewhere might get his knickers in a twist, but it's hard to see them as wronged. Indeed, no knickers have been twisted, though we've been posting whole pieces for years and the Poli Board (or political messages) were visible for most of them. And if there is some possible harm we might somehow do somebody, surely it has to be balanced against the greater good we actually do authors. Consider the article I posted, the one you mention above, by a Notre Dame law professor arguing the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon violates Just War Doctrine. This from an obscure online journal devoted to legal issues. You can bet your bottom dollar that what she wants is that her piece be widely read and discussed. Often we are giving authors what they most want–a wider audience. Posting the whole article on the Poli Board maximizes their goals better than posting just part of it or merely posting a link, because it increases the probability that the author's work will actually be read and discussed. In the case of posting just plain news articles, I would bet that generally the authors either are (or would be) pleased their work is being discussed–or they couldn't care less. Again, there haven't been any complaints over the years, which should count for something.
I don't think you can sensibly extrapolate morally to the whole board from an exchange years ago with an author about the Newsletter.