Irony Vigilante Bill Keller: NYT copyright infringement was "illustrative uploading"

Bill Keller, former executive editor of The New York Times, rails against those who mock him. The newspaper published someone else's column without permission while he was busy insisting that copyright infringement is theft, and has been subjected to much ridicule as a result.

The law should not go after minor transgressions. Moreover, I specifically said a real reform should also relax some copyright protections – such as cases where a work that is long out of print could be made widely available to a new audience. Nowhere did I suggest that the law should criminalize the illustrative uploading of a 36-year-old alt-weekly article that is otherwise unavailable.

Well said, Bill Keller!

The interesting thing about Keller's new op-ed role is that, like the Times' "public editor", it appears to be an unmoderated sinecure by design, occupied by a fellow whose lack of self-awareness may be disconcerting to some colleagues.

Previously: NYT publishes "infringement is theft" column and rips off another paper's article in the same weekend


  1. The sneering “alt-weekly” really is a nice touch: that sort of publication is obviously undeserving of consideration, let alone of rights. I’ll bet that the New York Times quite zealously protects its rights regarding articles it published 36 years ago. If I were to, for example, rip off their  coverage of Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and post it in whole on a site with traffic like theirs, I’ll bet I’d hear from them soon enough.

    And is it even otherwise unavailable? Is it, for example, available (for a fee) through Lexis/Nexis from your own home, or by visiting the Boston Public Library? Because if the former – and Nexis is older than the article, although I don’t know if it included the publication in question – what’s the difference compared to  the New York Times‘s online archives, which are also available for a price?

  2. A really funny thing is that, though Keller claims they took the article down when the Phoenix complained, they actually didn’t. They removed the links to it from the NY Times articles, but if you type in the URL illustrated in the screen capture in the Phoenix editorial, you’ll find the actual PDF is still there on the server. (At least at the time I’m writing this. If others have noticed, it may be gone by tomorrow.)

  3. The message from Big Media is remarkably consistent:

    “Copyright infringement is bad… except when we do it.”

  4. “[…] I’d be tempted to propose a law keeping irony out of the hands of the clueless.”

    Fortunately for you, Mr. Keller, there is no such law.  Nor is there a law against starting an argument with a rhetorical thrust that you disavow even as you’re making it, nor against wrapping yourself in the flag of free speech while supporting a policy that suppresses it, or you’d be in trouble over those too.

    We get that you have contempt for our beliefs.  That’s why it’s a fight.

    Your position in leadership of a media giant disqualifies you from commenting objectively.

  5. Is this the same Bill Keller who is stabbing Julian Assange and Wikileaks in the back, after using material that WL gave them?

    (Read the The Rolling Stone interview.)

  6. If Keller decides to offer downloads of the original unaltered Star Wars trilogy (younger than 36 year old series that is otherwise unavailable) I’ll forgive him.

  7. The law should not go after minor transgressions.

    Wow.  Don’t have good laws, have lax enforcement!  That’ll never be abused!

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