Is It Linking, Copying, or Stealing? (Or Just Commentary)

Yesterday’s article “Color This Area of the Law Gray” by Daniel Grant, discusses the current state of avant-garde infringement. “Appropriationists”, Grant writes, are artists who publicly state that they are copying are and reusing it in the service of art for the public good. This is not a new idea — artists have been stealing from each other in good and bad faith for hundreds of years — but the internet and digital copying methods make the law a bit hazy here.

Lawyer John Koegel states in the article, “…the use of a copyrighted image is transformative based on the ordinary lay observer’s sense of if the new work is different and how different it is.” Is linking to a WSJ article merely stealing? Or is it an extension of the need to tell stories?

I believe the point of blogging, among other things, is to inform people of things they might not otherwise know. The sheer overload of information that we face — from screens we view from morning until night — leaves us searching for ways to organize the world.

And the way that we organize that world is different for each and every brain (see John Medina’s Brain Rules for more…). This raises an interesting philosophical point whether “copying is in the eye of the beholder” is in fact a physiological reflection of the different ways in which different people “see” the world.

Obviously there is a bright line between physically copying and republishing an article from the WSJ and linking to it as I discuss what I think it means. But at the margins that’s a pretty hazy difference. Keep on sharing and publishing (and give credit where credit is due) and you will make new connections, inform your friends, and maybe learn something new every day.

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