As activist, my approach was, let’s steal content until told not to

As reported yesterday by Westword and the Denver Daily News, Reporters Without Borders makes a seemingly reasonable request of The Denver Post and its associated law firm, Righthaven: warn bloggers and activists before suing them for stealing your content.

Let me make a confession here: For years as an activist (now I’m a progressive journalist), I’d steal content (a song or an article or this or that) and use it under the assumption that I’d just take it down if I or my organization received a cease-and-desist letter. So I knew I was stealing stuff, but I didn’t care.

I know I’m not the only one who burgled in this manner.

Now let’s look at the current situation in the newspaper industry. Journalism is dying, especially big-city dailies. Politicians send reporters like Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post condolence gifts when their newspapers close, but they don’t do anything about it. In fact, few people care. The interest groups benefiting from journalism don’t seem to know who they are, and they are mostly silent.

So I don’t like a lot of what Righthaven is doing, and I don’t understand why the newspapers aren’t publicizing the lawsuits to educate the public, but I love to see newspapers fighting back aggressively.

That’s what this desperate situation calls for.

So here’s a legal strategy being tried by Righthaven that’s addressing what could turn out to be a central part of saving journalism: protection of online content. I admit that neither the revenue from online content, nor the strategy of suing to protect it, will likely work.

But it could be a part of saving journalism, and it’s worth it to try.

And sending “takedown” letters before suing will allow too many bad guys, like I myself was, to continue to be bad.

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