Friday, June 29, 2012

Davy Vara (and his lawyer) still don’t understand Fair Use

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Davy Vara
Davy Vara

Here we go again. Barely a day after I wrote about an egregiously dumb copyright claim sent to me by Davy Vara, a contributor at police monitoring site Cop Block and who’s apparently quite peeved that I dared to quote from his article for my own post, the man appears and responds thus:

Email from my attorney regarding people copying and pasting my work and passing it off as their own.

Davy, if your work is copywritten, and it is, then you and only you as the original author of said work, has the right to go forward with a notice to cease and desist any and all work which you see someone use and, as is the case here, the person(s) who have copied your work have failed to give you proper credit and/or acknowledgement to you as the original author.

Let me know how you wish to proceed and make sure that whereever you see your work being used in a way where your name has been intentionally excluded, then write down the name of whoever posted it and the website where you saw it and we will proceed accordingly with litigation against those individuals... not only the person who posted it but the website they posted it on.


Followed by this:

Again, you copied and pasted my exact article, yet intentionally left out my name so as to pass article off as yours. You can say what you want. And your refusal to either give me credit for the article that I wrote and you copied and pasted, or take the article down. Your intentions have been documented and forwarded to my attorney. In the future, so you can avoid litigation, write your own pieces, or have the respect to acknowledge that it is someone else's article and not yours.

Should I be questioning my ability to explain myself at this point? No, really, I mean it. (Or almost.) I made it beyond clear how and why A) I have done nothing wrong, B) I fully attributed his post to him via a hyperlink, as is required under the U.S. Fair Use/Canadian Fair Dealing doctrines (I even made sure to check them both, not knowing which might be applicable given my being a Canuck), and C) he has absolutely no credible legal basis for any of his claims against me (which even included that I had committed “libel actions” against him, despite not mentioning him at all in my original post). I provided several links, even taking the time to deliberately choose the pages that best explained the issue in the most straightforward way possible.

By now, I honestly don’t know what more I could possibly have done to impress upon Vara and Mick the Attorney that quoting an article and including a direct hyperlink to the original does not, by any rational (or legal!) measure, equal “attempt[ing] to pass [it] off as [my] own”. I’m starting to wish I had my own lawyer – a competent one, unlike the sterling example of legal illiteracy that is Vara’s – just so I could delegate to them the tedious task of repeating the basics of how copyright law works, instead.

Yet sadly, I have no such aid, so here I am, again about to explain the exceedingly obvious and childishly simple to Vara and Mick the Attorney (complete with bonus bold text for added clarity):

1) I did not try to take credit for Davy Vara’s original article. I quoted it. (That is legal.) I then provided a clear and direct hyperlink to his post as attribution. In fact, I even included the name “Davy the hyperlink hover text, as I do for every link I insert in this blog, as pictured below:

Screenshot of hover text for ‘lose its life’ link (red arrow) in ‘In which I am vaguely threatened with a bogus copyright claim [by Joé McKen @ 06/27/12 10:58 PM ET] | Preliator pro Causa’: “Gates, N.Y. Police Department Sergeant Anthony S. Perry Brags: “I’ve Shot 12 Dogs, it is what it is.”, moments after Officer James Coughlin shoots Innocent Dog. Second Incident in Monroe County, N.Y. this Month. [by Davy V. (blue arrow) @ 06/26/12] | Cop Block”

I did not write “I totally wrote that article I’m blockquoting!”, nor “I have secretly changed my name to Davy V. for the past few hours in order to post that article under that name, and now I am back as Joé McKen to quote it, here!”, nor anything else of the sort. There is just no way whatsoever for any rational, Internet-knowing, English-comprehending mind to claim that I tried to present myself as the author of Davy Vara’s article, either in full or in the section I quoted.

2) I did give proper credit and/or acknowledgment to Davy Vara as the original author. On the Internet, all that is needed for this is a hyperlink to the source article. In fact, I even went further than I needed to by including that aforementioned link hover text, as very few other websites even bother to do that. In short, not only did I do exactly as the law requires, I literally did more than the law requires.

3) I did not “intentionally exclude” Davy Vara’s name when I quoted his post in mine. That implies that I deliberately removed his name from the attribution, allegedly in the hopes of passing his article off as my own. Now, yes, there were parts of his original post – 74% of it, in fact – that I left out when I selected the excerpt I wanted to include in my post. And yes, that includes the line “By Davy V.” at the top of the post. I did this because it was superfluous. I had already linked directly to his post – and included the line “by Davy V.” in the aforementioned link hover text – which, again, is all that is required for proper attribution on a webpage. That is how the Internet works. It’s how it has always worked. Davy Vara and Mick the Attorney will not undo years (and nearly decades) of clear precedent by complaining about something they very clearly do not understand.

4) Quoting an article is not the same as “cop[ying] and past[ing]” it. Quoting is how one references written content in sections that one wishes to draw specific attention to. No court in the history of mankind – or, less grandiosely, in the history of modern copyright law – has ever found anyone guilty of violating copyright only because they quoted something else.

Is that clear enough? I sincerely hope that it is. I’m running out of ways to explain all this, especially given how absolutely rudimentary it is. There are only so many ways one can phrase how 1+1=2 before losing it, you know.

So, in summary:

Get a bloody grip, Davy Vara.

Please don’t bother responding any further if you only have more baseless accusations and insipid little threats to offer. I promise you that you are not impressing or frightening anybody with your nonsense. I won’t sue you for your idiocy, though – I’ll just continue to expose your incompetence and mock you far and wide until you get your shit together and put an end to your stupid, ill-advised, ridiculous and downright bizarre attempt at accusing me of violating your article’s precious copyright simply by quoting it.

And for crying out loud, get a new freaking lawyer. Unless you actually enjoy being represented by someone who appears to share a brain with Larry Klayman of WorldNetDaily fame, it really isn’t worth the inevitable humiliation. Trust me on this. (I mean, not that you will, but still.)

However, as anyone who bothered to follow the previous links may have noticed, Vara also added a third comment, which really is the perfect clincher for this silly mess:

And by the way, my blog, you know, the one you copied and pasted in an attempt to pass off as your own, has received over 3,200 views in 36 hours. It is averaging 88 views per hour. In fact 559 of those views have been from Canada.

There’s nothing like ending on a blatant logical fallacy – particularly one as self-defeatingly basic as good ol’ ad populum – to remove any lingering doubt about just how seriously one should be taken.