Newnan Georgia – Where copyright goes to die

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt May 13, 2014

UPDATE: I have received a statement from the Georgia Press Association. They are refusing to take a stand. More details at the end of this post. Also, Times Herald General Manager John Winters has left a response in our comments section, and I have responded to his response. 

I hadn’t heard of the Newnan Times Herald in Newnan, Ga. until I caught the newspaper republishing one of my Decaturish.com articles.

The management of the publication freely admits that a Times Herald reporter took my work without my permission and reprinted it in full on www.times-herald.com. I took a screen shot of it before the article was removed on May 11 (click the image to enlarge):

TH1

I also saw the article for sale on the Times Herald’s online archives. You would think once I pointed this out to management, they would admit their mistake and issue an apology. I also submitted an invoice to the Times Herald asking for compensation for the unauthorized republication of my work.

I received no apology from management. (The reporter who posted the article did apologize to me, I should note.) According to the Times Herald General Manager John Winters, I shouldn’t be offended because the Times Herald gave me a byline on my own article.

“Most authors, including newspapers, seek to have as extensive circulation of their articles as possible so long as appropriate attribution is provided,” he told me.

By the way, Mr. Winters serves on the board of the Georgia Press Association. I have sent the executive director and board leadership a copy of Mr. Winters’ letter to me.

The Times Herald did indeed attribute the article to Decaturish, but provided no link back to my original piece. The article was more than 700 words long and included multiple sources. I spent several hours reporting it.

So, yeah, I was a little pissed off when I saw the Times Herald using my article to generate page views for their website without a link back to my own. I tried to maintain as professional a tone as the circumstances would allow. I articulated my position in a way that I thought was strong, but appropriate.

Mr. Winters never returned my phone calls and ignored my email until Monday. On Tuesday, he sent the following letter to me in response to the invoice I submitted.

Dear Dan:

As our newspaper has previously advised, the article in question was posted online with attribution. When you objected to that, it was removed from the website.

Most authors, including newspapers, seek to have as extensive circulation of their articles as possible so long as appropriate attribution is provided.

In addition, our records show that the article received only 30 views while it was on our newspaper’s website. Taking the compensation we receive per view, and multiplying that by 500 times, would amount to a value of $26.25. Therefore, we think that any damage to viewership on your site, as a result of our posting the article, would be miniscule.

Also, any factual material in the article you posted is not covered by the copyright laws. All facts, even comments by persons quoted in an article, are in the public domain.

Finally, you did not provide us with any documentation that supports any copyright registration or copyright protection you might have obtained for the article in question. Before we can consider doing anything further in regard to your complaint, please let us have copies of documentation that support any copyright registration or protections you might have obtained for the article in question.

We look forward to hearing back from you with any additional information you wish to share.

Sincerely,

John

I felt the information that I shared with Mr. Winters was pretty substantive. Much of it is contained in my original invoice (I am omitting the name of the reporter who posted the story, because he at least had the decency to apologize):

INVOICE

From: Dan Whisenhunt, Editor of Decaturish.com

To: John Winters, General Manager
CC: Ellen Corker, News Editor
CC: Winston Skinner, Assistant News Editor

For: Unauthorized republication of copyrighted Decaturish.com material.

Payment due: $1,000

Summary: On May 7, 2014, the Newnan Times Herald republished an article titled, “HB – 60 – NRA wanted Public Housing Language” on www.times-herald.com. On May 10, Decaturish.com received notification that this article had been reprinted. While the article does credit the source, it does not provide a link back to the source. In addition, the article was offered for resale on the Times Herald website via its archives.

I have attached images to support my claims in a separate email to management at the Times Herald.

The 734-word article included interviews with more than three sources, and involved several hours’ worth of reporting. (The reporter) admitted his error in publishing the article. He said in his response, dated May 11, “I originally posted it because I believed it to be a compelling story – believing that as long as I attributed the source and author, it would be acceptable.”

I find that response difficult to believe. I do not think your staff would publish content from the New York Times or the Washington Post on your website without a prior content sharing agreement. I believe my content was republished because your publication considers Decaturish.com (to) be less concerned about protecting copyright than a traditional newspaper and therefore less likely to complain. As you can see, that is not the case.

(Your reporter’s) response shows a blatant disregard for the copyright of other publishers. What (your reporter) either ignored or failed to realize is that Decaturish.com is an online-only business. Our sole means of income is based upon the number of page views the article receives on our website. Any views that are diverted from our website have a direct effect on our ability to charge competitive rates for advertising. Conversely it also offered Times Herald’s website a competitive advantage.

To date I have not received a response from management to my emails or phone calls regarding this incident. That is simply inexcusable. This incident warrants a more substantive response from your publication. I believe a $1,000 is an appropriate compensation for both the time I spent producing this article, and as an acknowledgement of your company’s egregious error in violating my copyright.

If your company does not issue a formal response to me with regard to this invoice, I intend to file a formal complaint with the Georgia Press Association, where Mr. Winters serves as a board member.

I am a member of Georgia’s journalism community. The response I have seen to date is not a positive reflection on your publication. I expect a prompt response acknowledging that you have received this invoice and that you are working to address my concerns.

Thank you.

– Dan Whisenhunt

So why would I share this with you? Well, aside from wanting to show the absurdity of the situation, I also think that Mr. Winters and his organization are taking advantage of my circumstances. Unlike the Times Herald, I do not have connections in the Georgia Press Association or a team of lawyers who can nickel-and-dime people who infringe on my copyright. The only other recourse I have is this website that I have built through my own hard, tedious work.

Mr. Winters seems to think that my status as a smaller publisher makes my copyright less valid than that of his publication. I doubt the Times Herald would pluck articles from its competitors or publications like The New York Times without some prior arrangement. Bigger publications with more resources simply wouldn’t stand for it.

I’m punching above my weight. But that doesn’t mean I won’t fight back.

Mr. Winters and other publishers need a wakeup call. Just because you gave me a byline on your website, it does not make it OK to take my work and use it without my permission. I don’t know what additional information I could provide that will make that any clearer for you.

I hope for the sake of the industry that your peers don’t share your view. We’ll find out soon enough.

UPDATE, 10:17 am on 5/14: The Georgia Press Association has contacted me to let me know that they won’t be weighing in on this issue.

I received this email from GPA President Eric Denty:

Mr. Whisenhunt,
 
Your communication has been received. Since this appears to be a dispute about which you and The Newnan Times Herald have different views, I do not expect the Georgia Press Association to become involved in it. 
 
Sincerely,
Eric Denty
President
Georgia Press Association

He’s correct about that. We do have differing views. I think taking someone’s content without permission is wrong and the Times Herald doesn’t. Here is my response to Mr. Denty:

No one expects to have to take a stand, but sometimes it’s just something you have to do. I am disappointed that you would ignore such blatant misbehavior by one of your own board members. Forgive the cliche, but your silence speaks volumes.

I wish I could say Mr. Denty’s response surprises me, but the truth is that the journalism industry in Georgia tends to circle the wagons whenever it is criticized. The Twitter page for the Georgia Press Association says the organization is charged with, “Promoting the interests & well-being of Georgia’s newspaper industry.”

How does Mr. Denty’s response further that mission? Or does Decaturish not count because it is an online-only publication?

The GPA is taking a pass on a question that should be easy to answer. That should make all journalists and publishers in Georgia very concerned.

LAST UPDATE, 4:41 pm, on 5/14: I would like to thank everyone who has commented here and shared this post. I believe this is an issue that in general doesn’t receive enough attention, and there are clearly people who share my concerns. I’m not satisfied with the responses of the Times Herald or Georgia Press Association because both imply our disagreement is a simple difference opinion. If it were only that, I wouldn’t have raised any sand about it. There need to be clear guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable practice with regard to the work of other content creators as we confront the challenges of journalism in the digital age. I think GPA is responsible for setting the tone on these matters, but they have declined to do so in this instance. I think it’s a missed opportunity.

I could spend a lot of time grinding my axe about this and not wind up any better off than when I started. But I have communities to cover, and so does the Times Herald, and I’d be doing a disservice to both of them by focusing too much of my time and energy on this one dispute. I would ask that you please stop emailing Mr. Winters and members of the GPA on my behalf. We’ve made our point and got people’s attention. Maybe that was enough to make some people think twice before doing it again. I hope so.

TH2

 

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Manman

    Might want to look through their archives, I seem to recall seeing more than that article of yours on the Times-Herald.

  • Catie

    Wow, the response from that Times-Herald guy is UNBELIEVABLE.

    So unprofessional… and he’s part of the Georgia Press Association?! How embarrassing for them.

    • nellnee

      I bet he came up through the business side, not editorial

      • Not legal either, given that lack of understanding of copyright law. Not that it sounds like anyone at the organization is getting a basic media law primer, given the initial reporter’s misconceptions.

  • SB

    Kudos to you for how you have handled and continue to handle this issue. You are 100% in the right and this needs to be shared far and wide folks. Thanks for your informative and essential publication that thousands of us enjoy.

  • Diane Loupe

    It’s embarassing that anyone in the journalism business is acting this way. They, of all people, should know about plagiarism and copyright law.

  • dylansmith

    Emailed to Winters:

    Dear John,

    You and your newspaper’s cavalier disregard for professional ethics and intellectual copyright law have moved me to comment.

    As a veteran newsman, the Editor and Publisher of TucsonSentinel.com, the Chairman of the Board of the national Local Independent Online News Publishers group, a member of the Board of the Arizona Press Club, and one of the authors of the industry statement on plagiarism, “Telling the Truth and Nothing But,” I feel I’m qualified to do so.

    Let me emphasize that I’m speaking only for myself in this message, although I’ve already seen that distaste for your behavior is widespread across the nation. I suspect mine is not the only comment you’ll receive.

    The Newnan Times-Herald, without any license, published the entirety of a news report from another news organization. You and your staff have admitted that you did not have permission to publish the original news report, “HB 60 – NRA Wanted Public Housing Language,” from Decaturish.com.

    That’s not only a serious violation of professional standards, it’s a bald-faced violation of copyright.

    Your response to Dan Whisenhunt, editor and publisher of Decaturish, would be nothing short of laughable were it not so ignorant and rude.

    You told Mr. Whisenhunt that his article was viewed so few times on your website, and you earn so little for each online reader, that “any damage to viewership on your site, as a result of our posting the article, would be miniscule.”

    While I’m certainly sorry that your newspaper’s online presence attracts view readers and little revenue, I don’t quite fathom how your poor efforts mean that Mr. Whisenhunt should not be fairly compensated for his work. Your newspaper thought that news report important enough to publish without seeking permission; why should you not pay the appropriate rate?

    As to you assertion that “(m)ost authors, including newspapers, seek to have as extensive circulation of their articles as possible so long as appropriate attribution is provided.”

    Given that, am I to assume that you and the owners of your publication are granting a license for any publisher – indeed, any website operator – to repost the material from your website on a wholesale basis? Perhaps you could add a Creative Commons license announcement to your site, to make that more clear.

    On Decaturish.com, I see no such notice. What I do see is the familiar phrase, “All Rights Reserved.” If that’s not clear to a layman, even if he is experienced enough in the news industry to sit on the board of the Georgia Press Association, then maybe a short talk with a legal advisor is in order.

    You stated to Mr. Whisenhunt that, “Also, any factual material in the article you posted is not covered by the copyright laws. All facts, even comments by persons quoted in an article, are in the public domain.”

    Since you’re an expert on how Internet publishing works, I won’t have to explain to you how a hyperlink functions. But, you should click this link and read: http://www.rjionline.org/sites/default/files/aces_telling_the_truth_1.pdf

    Facts are indeed not copyrightable. But lifting an entire news story from a different news outlet, without permission, and publishing it word-for-word is not something that approaches Fair Use under the law, nor any decent journalist’s sense of fair play and ethical behavior.

    You didn’t pick a fact or two, or copy a quote with appropriate attribution. You took an entire news report and published it without any license to do so.

    You also wrote to Mr. Whisenhunt that, “Finally, you did not provide us with any documentation that supports any copyright registration or copyright protection you might have obtained for the article in question. Before we can consider doing anything further in regard to your complaint, please let us have copies of documentation that support any copyright registration or protections you might have obtained for the article in question.”

    I don’t know when you formulated your (paltry) understanding of copyright law, but you should as a newspaper general manager be aware that under the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright protection automatically extends to “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

    No registration is required for a work to be so protected. Nor is a declaration of copyright required, although the work you lifted from Decaturish prominently includes such a notice that the contents are copyrighted — a factor that carries additional evidentiary weight under the law.

    Rather than you continuing a litany of half-baked excuses and attempts to pass off your newspaper’s actions as acceptable, I suggest you unreservedly and publicly apologize and remunerate Mr. Whisenhunt to his satisfaction.

    To paraphrase an adage, when you’ve typed yourself into a f-ing hole, stop f-ing typing. You have the opportunity to do the right thing.

    Regards,

    Dylan Smith

  • Noah

    I can’t even put into words my disgust for this situation. And, big kudos to you for standing up for what is fair and just – you are doing the right thing. Patience and perseverance will hopefully bring to light these issues that probably exist among many of your peers that don’t have balls to stand up for themselves.

  • Brandon

    Man, are they playin with fire..

    They deserve a lawsuit, at least small claims.

  • Randy B.

    Dylan FTW. Nice work.

  • J_T

    I figured he was just blowing you off, thinking you were some small-time dude who didn’t matter to such a big important guy from the Newnan-By-God-Times Herald (personally, that’s the first place I go for any and all news about Alan Jackson, which is at least a biennial occurrence). But then I got to the part where he asked for documentation of copyright registration for the article in question and I realized that, nah, he’s just a bumbling bumpkin who probably inherited a failing, smalltown newspaper and can’t afford to hire an attorney. I may not be a copyright lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and I’m thus pretty certain that Dylan Smith is correct that copyright protection flows automatically to such published works and thus Mr. Winter’s stance is, to use the correct legal term, ri-freaking-diculous.

    As for the story stealing newsman’s position on the Georgia Press Association’s Board of Director’s, well, I had never heard of the GPA before today so who the hell cares?!?

    Go get ’em Dan!

    • Sean Irish

      yes, copyright protection flows automatically. Masthead/website notice is all that is required.

      Standing up against infringements is ALSO required, to maintain copyright.

      Only “Creative Commons 3.0 – Non-Commercial” copyright claims may (conditionally) avoid copyright suit, and then only for non-commercial work which is publicly distributed.

  • TomK

    I’ve been a newspaper publisher. On behalf of the vast majority of people running newspapers, please accept my apology for you having to go through something like this.

    Dylansmith is, indeed, correct about how copyright works. The moment you write it down, it’s copyrighted. You don’t have to document a thing, and I think Dan knows that. What he’s trying to do is bluff you, confident that no one in the New Media understands copyright law. Unfortunately for him, he’s very wrong.

    I find it very difficult to believe that an experienced newspaper man doesn’t understand that he isn’t allowed to lift an article from somewhere else without relevant permissions. If that is indeed true, then he simply disregarded that because he most likely feels that New Media outlets should be happy for any pat in the head given to them by Legacy Media.

    Well, I was a blogger before I bought a newspaper. If that’s his reasoning, he’s badly mistaken. I sincerely hope you are able to pursue this further than just this post. Perhaps an attorney reading this will offer to handle the case pro bono? Here’s hoping.

    Either way, best of luck in getting this resolved.

  • schultmh

    emailed to Winters:

    Stealing someone else’s article is obviously, on the face of it, and in any enterprise that considers itself a professional outlet for journalism, wrong. Your attempted defense of said actions is pitiful and, to a fellow journalist, deeply disturbing.

    The least you should do is apologize.

    What you ought to do is pay Wisenhunt’s invoice, step down from the GPA, and consider going back to j-school for a refresher in ethics.

    Sincerely,

    m.

  • What an incredible story. Keep fighting the good fight, Dan. If you’re interested in forming a support group of local bloggers, I’m in. We may need our own association if this happens again.

    • Thanks. You know, the thought had crossed my mind …

      • TomK

        Honestly, do it! Bloggers only benefit by such associations, and they can start to make it a bit scarier for a paper to try and pull this kind of crap. Particularly if the group has the means to fight back.

  • Timothy A. Hand

    What ridiculousness is this? They stole, got caught, and should just own up to it. Were I an intellectual properties lawyer, I would represent this case in a heartbeat!

  • Dave

    Early this morning, several readers had registered their disgust with the Times-Herald’s actions on their Facebook wall. Later this morning, the Times-Herald deleted those posts and their commentary, but new ones quickly appeared. Those have since been deleted as well, and the page no longer allows people to post on their wall. Looks like they’re in damage control mode. Move along folks, nothing to see here!

    • Not surprised. I guarantee you the strategy at this point is to wait it out until the controversy dies down and then pretend it never happened. I appreciate the readers who have voiced their concerns to both the newspaper and the press association.

  • Buster Brown

    It’s amazing this editor followed his organization’s theft with the specious, demeaning and grossly unprofessional rationale with regard to “page counts.” In short, he indicated compensation for a piece of reportage would be premised upon how many readers ultimately clicked on the article. The ripple effect of such thinking is fascinating to follow. Does this mean his staff reporters don’t know the amount of their next check each pay period until the payroll department has calculated the number of hits each of their stories garnered? Does it mean a reporter might receive an incremental check years later when a reader consults the article via archives, even if the reporter has long-since moved on, retired or even died?

    Does the newspaper’s financial budgeting process come into play when assigning stories to reporters in that, because a coming month is perhaps expected to be a tough one for revenues, it may be necessary to cover less sports and spot news, as the paper may not be able to budget paying for the hits “popular” stories might generate? Will there instead be heavy coverage of public agency agendas for upcoming meetings, and perhaps a feature on observations made while paint dries?

    As the claimed 30 page-views of the article is insignificant, to what extent is that ostensibly low number attributable to sloppy layout, poor presentation and/or a failure to appropriately advise readers of the article’s subject matter and availability? In short, would the article have had more views if the newspaper employed more competent editors and managers?

    The list of examples demonstrating the naked dishonesty of Winters’ “argument” goes on. But in the end, ultimately, it appears he’s determined to insist the Newnan Times Herald knowingly and intentionally offered readers content that was utterly and completely worthless. Somehow I suspect that’s contrary to claims that are made in the effort to retain current subscribers, and generate new ones.

    Truly, the “cherry on top” of this outrage is the response of Georgia’s so-called press association. Any organization so clearly disinterested in taking a stand on ethics and integrity may as well drop the word “Press” from its title, and more clearly announce it is effectively and simply a lobbying organization for a certain group of businesses, in this instance a consortium that attempts to earn a profit publishing text.

    c.c. John Winters, General Manager, Newnan Times Herald, Ellen Corker, News Editor, Winston Skinner, Assistant News Editor – Robin Rhodes & Eric Denty, Georgia Press Association

    ellen@newnan.com
    john@newnan.com
    winston@newnan.com
    rrhodes@mindspring.com

  • Chris
  • blackbird13

    This is little different than stealing a stack of an artists CDs from a show at Eddies Attic and reselling them at a flea market. Yeah, the artist’s name is on the cover, but the artist is uncompensated for their work other than “exposure.” It’s called theft, Newnan Hopefully-Not-A-Herald-of- the-Times

  • VinnyNY

    Apparently Newnan Times Herald has never heard of Cooks Source Magazine.

  • Lafollette

    This is a guy who spends his off days inflating his resume (All it takes to be “nominated” for a Pulitzer Prize, for instance, is 50 bucks and postage), so it kind of figures he’s got no problem lifting somebody else’s work.

  • MT

    I guess the response from the Georgia Press Association makes sense if you assume that they only consider you to be the “press” if your fingertips are still ink-stained. Their industry is dying, so in their mind there’s no need to worry about upsetting a few bloggers. Don’t let this one out of your teeth.

  • fsg

    Do small publishers (on-line or otherwise) not have organizations to help protect their copyright interests? I doubt the associations of print publications care very much about cases like yours. Perhaps you need to start something like ASCAP for journalists.

  • greenhil

    We had issues like this several times back in the GoDeKalb.com days. Sorry to see attitudes haven’t changed much.

  • KWK

    The actions of the Times Herald are inexcusable. The very least they should do is apologize in a public forum and remove the content from their archives.

    Out of curiosity, I decided to find out a little more about John Winters and came across the ultimate irony, an article he wrote on May 10, 2014 entitled “Taking Responsibility.” Frankly, it is a horribly written piece, but it is about teaching his sons to take responsibility for their actions and not make excuses. How about you show your sons what that really means, John?

    I am not linking back to this article because I refuse to enhance the page views.

  • John Winters

    Dan:

    Since you have included my email in this column I hope you will allow me the opportunity to respond to your readers here, rather than piecemeal.

    I am not going to get into a point by point rebuttal, but rather would like to simply add additional information that was not included in this, as you eloquently put it, “absurdity of the situation.”

    Your readers can then decide on their own.

    First, I commend you for leaving out the name of the reporter in question. You did not have to and I thank you for that courtesy. I assure you he now knows more about copyright laws than anyone in the country. And he feels horrible about what transpired. Second, he is a “cub” reporter. This is his first journalism job and he’s been here less than eight months. I do not say that as an excuse, but rather as background.

    There seems to be three overriding issues, an apology or lack thereof, an apparent total disregard on our part regarding copyrights, and our apparent lack of timeliness in responding. Let me provide a timeline of what transpired as I have been able to gather:

    We were first made aware of the situation in an email sent by you on Saturday, May 10, at 11:25 p.m. In that, you noted it was your work, demanded we take it down. You also informed us we could “consider this our first informal warning.” Otherwise, attorneys would be contacted, etc.

    Fair enough.

    So your readers know, we have early deadlines on Saturday. The building is shut down by 7 p.m. We do not publish on Monday or Tuesday, therefore no one would be in the office on Sunday. You also left several voice messages with reporters, editors and myself. There was no one here to get those phone calls. No one read your late night email.

    The two editors and I received an email from the reporter in question on Sunday, May 11, at 7:02 a.m. He informed us he was in contact with you and was handling the situation. He had not seen your email until early that morning. I checked my email and got caught up on your original email. I then texted him to make sure the story was deleted and he replied that he had done so at 6 a.m.

    Our staff know they are responsible for their own actions. If they make a mistake while representing The Newnan Times-Herald, it is up to them to correct it. I come into the picture when asked or if the situation is not resolved. However, they know they are to make things right.

    At 7:11 a.m. on Sunday, May 11, the reporter in question sent you an email. For the record, it was sent through his company account, which included our newspaper logo, phone numbers, various social media links, etc. As noted above, it was therefore on behalf of the NTH.

    Here is that full email, of which you have repeatedly left out the apology part:

    Hi Dan,

    This is (reporter). I’m responsible for online content and so I am the one who republished your story.

    I have removed the story from our archive and it was never printed in the paper.

    I originally posted it because I believed it to be a compelling story – believing that as long as I attributed the source and author, it would be acceptable. I’m extremely sorry for this frustration and can only assure you that it will never happen again.

    Again, I am so very sorry for the error.

    Best,

    (Reporter)

    He did this on his own initiative as he knows that he is responsible. Dan, I can assure you he was being completely truthful. He did not know about linking back and honestly thought a byline and including the site address was sufficient. He was wrong and admitted so.

    On Monday, May 12, I arrived early at the office and told the reporter in question, as well as leaving messages for other reporters and editors, that we needed to meet to ensure this incident never occurred again. I then left for a rather lengthy funeral.

    I met with all reporters and editors when I returned to discuss the situation and the proper way to summarize and link back stories. I even used your story from the AJC about the discovery of a dead woman as an example of the proper way.

    Almost right after that meeting, at 2:45 on Monday, May 12, I received an “invoice” from you demanding $1,000 for violation of your copyright. I responded back within 10 minutes saying I was reviewing the situation and would get back to you.

    I was continuing to review the various emails when I came upon one you sent on Sunday, May 11, at 8:55 a.m. in response to the reporter’s apology.

    In it you said, “I’m afraid a removal and apology simply will not suffice.” You also said you wanted us to “take this lesson to heart “ for our company’s “blatant disregard of my copyright.” You also used the term “appalling disregard” later in the email.

    I do not see how we blatantly disregarded your copyright. It was an honest mistake made by a reporter who at the time, didn’t not fully understand proper credits.

    In your original post, you clearly stated “I received no apology.” Nothing more. I think it appropriate that we note you later changed that to: “I received no apology from management. (The reporter who posted the article did apologize to me, I should note.)”

    However, I have received several emails from readers who saw the original post asking why we did not apologize, when in fact we did. I will consider that an honest mistake on your part that you corrected.

    We made an honest mistake. We took steps immediately to correct the error. We formally apologized and are obviously doing so again. You would not accept that and so therefore I sent the email you have so prominently displayed.

    As you said, “the absurdity of the situation.”

    I appreciate your allowing me to add these points. I will make no other comments.

    Sincerely

    John A. Winters

    • John, first of all, thank you for the reply. You are correct that I amended the original post at some point last evening because I realized there was an inherent contradiction in it. I said the company did not apologize but later said the reporter did apologize. I realized that might be a bit confusing, so I wanted to make it clearer. But really, with all due respect, it doesn’t matter whether your reporter apologizes or not. You are the GM of the Times Herald and the buck stops with you.

      Of course I removed the reporter’s name. I have seen far too many young reporters thrown under the bus by managers who are trying to get ahead. His lack of understanding is a failure of your newsroom to teach its staff the proper way to handle such things.

      Your reporter is probably like a lot of young reporters faced with similar circumstances: overworked, underpaid and trying to meet increasingly difficult demands. I appreciate your reporter’s apology, but he is not the one who speaks for the organization. You are, and you should not have taken as long as you did to get back in touch with me.

      Yes, I left a few voice mail messages. (I believe with you, the editor and the assistant editor.) I did that because I hoped someone would be there that evening who could remove the content. Your deadlines are irrelevant as far as my copyright is concerned. The content should’ve been removed as soon as possible. Of course, as you acknowledge, it shouldn’t have been put up in the first place.

      Finally, let’s get back to the whole reason I even bothered to write this. You, as the leader of your newsroom, chose to respond to my complaint in a way that marginalized my publication. Your reporter, on the other hand, quickly realized his error. You should not be putting your reporter on the spot for exercising better judgement than you did. If you had replied with a simple apology, even if you still refused to pay me, I probably would’ve let this go. Instead, you had the audacity to claim in your letter that you hadn’t really done anything wrong.

      It isn’t hard to figure out why a reporter in your newsroom would make such an error. Leadership starts at the top, and that includes you and everyone else on the board of the Georgia Press Association. I appreciate you reaching out, but you just don’t get it. You need to take responsibility as a leader for what happened under your watch, and you need to admit that the letter you sent me was a poor reflection on your publication.

      I hold no ill will toward you or your publication. I only asked that someone in a position of real authority at Times Herald treat me with some respect. You had an opportunity and you chose to taunt me instead. Your apology should be complete, total and unequivocal. Even if I had been a total jack hole about the way I responded – and I most certainly was not – it doesn’t make what you did right, or less wrong.

      This incident has shown me how profoundly out of touch you and other GPA members are with what’s going on in our industry. If the GPA intends to be a relevant voice going forward, its response to these issues can’t be “no comment.” The board needs leaders who will stand up for basic principles of fairness. If you aren’t going to do that, then please move out of the way for someone who will.

      In short, thanks for reaching out, but I am not satisfied with your response.

    • It’s just as well you will make no other comments; you are simply continuing to embarrass yourself and your organization.

      Let’s address the most important thing, shall we? Tone and word choice: You say “we” have apologized. There is no “we” that has apologized to Dan. There is a reporter who took personal responsibility and ownership of his mistake and was contrite about it.

      You, on the other hand, when confronted with the action, took absolutely no organizational or personal ownership. You equivocated about whether any misdeed was done at all, making statements like “When you objected to that” and implying that failing to be happy you chose to use his material without permission was something odd.

      Nowhere in that document – or the one above – do you use “I” in reference to an apology or contrition. You do not say you are sorry it happened, you do not say you are sorry that you failed to insure your reporters had adequate training or oversight, you do not say you’re sorry for one single thing. You don’t even indicate the “royal we” at the institution are sorry.

      Beyond that, you should look up the definition and synonyms for “blatant.” The use of Dan’s material without permission was most certainly “done openly.” While your reporter has the integrity to be chastened, you certainly seem to be embodying the “unashamedly” aspect of the word.

      If I were Dan I’d go pay the registration fee at eco.copyright.gov and small claims you for the statutory $750 based on your supposed interest in seeing “documentation that supports any copyright registration or copyright protection.” He doesn’t have to register to be copyrighted (maybe see if your lawyers can give you ALL some training, huh?) but he needs it for statutory damages.

    • Justin Case

      Mr. Winters

      Firstly, do you not understand that a publisher has a legal as well as professional and ethical responsibility for every single piece of work published on paper or on a website under that company’s name? Responsibility goes UP the chain of command in a newsroom, not down.

      Secondly, how is it possible that you think someone’s work has value enough to republish but not to be paid for? We are not talking about a link to or a review of an interesting or important story, you simply published the story itself without permission or payment. A credit absolves you from accusations of plagiarism, but not copyright infringement or intellectual property theft.

      Thirdly, you do not get to decide your own terms after infringing someone’s copyright. If you feel that it is only worth $26, then you negotiate in advance on those terms. If you use it without a contract, even through ignorance or negligence, than you pay what the author finds reasonable compensation.

      Lastly, your continued rationalizations and justifications are insulting to every journalist and reader who has to come in contact with this story. It is so blatantly unprofessional to try to mitigate your response by bringing personal issues into this (a funeral) or trying to blame a ‘cub’ reporter (and then claiming to be using it not “as an excuse” when you clearly are).

      Pay the man. Resign from the board of the Georgia Press Association and any other organization which has a board of ethics or oversees complaints which you have proven yourself unfit for. Then go out and do your research. You may not be a lawyer, but you certainly have responsibilities which require more knowledge of copyright issues than you currently possess.

      most sincerely.

  • dylansmith

    “Baffle-gab” indeed.

  • I don’t think so. I assure you it is accurate, and I have forwarded it to others.

  • I would like to thank everyone who has commented here and shared this post. I believe this is an issue that in general doesn’t receive enough attention, and there are clearly people who share my concerns. I’m not satisfied with the responses of the Times Herald or Georgia Press Association because both imply our disagreement is a simple difference opinion. If it were only that, I wouldn’t have raised any sand about it. There need to be clear guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable practice with regard to the work of other content creators as we confront the challenges of journalism in the digital age. I think GPA is responsible for setting the tone on these matters, but they have declined to do so in this instance. I think it’s a missed opportunity.

    I could spend a lot of time grinding my axe about this and not wind up any better off than when I started. But I have communities to cover, and so does the Times Herald, and I’d be doing a disservice to both of them by focusing too much of my time and energy on this one dispute. I would ask that you please stop emailing Mr. Winters and members of the GPA on my behalf. We’ve made our point and got people’s attention. Maybe that was enough to make some people think twice before doing it again. I hope so.

    • My favorite thing about this insane response from Winters is that yesterday my twitter feed was full of people complaining about the Newspaper Association of America’s statement condemning aggregators that use excerpts of AP stories and don’t pay anything back to the original paper [http://www.naa.org/News-and-Media/CEO-Update/2014-May-Copyright-Law.aspx]. And here Winters is saying gosh, most papers would just be happy for exposure!

      You’d think he’d be more plugged into this NAA stuff, having run an op-ed from their president in his paper just 6 months ago.

    • dylansmith

      There are very clear-cut guidelines regarding professional ethics and intellectual property rights, including plagiarism, attribution, and copyright. “Telling the Truth and Nothing But” is the product of a nationwide working group convened under the rubric of the National Summit to Fight Plagiarism and Fabrication.

      The precepts outlined in it are endorsed by, among many others, the Society of Professional Journalists, American Copy Editors Society, Associated Press Media Editors, American Society of News Editors, Online News Association, Local Independent Online News Publishers, and Radio, Television, Digital News Association.

      A few pertinent sections:

      Journalists must know how legal concepts such as copyright, fair use and trademarks apply to the profession. But they must go beyond minimum legal requirements to serve the public interest and treat creators fairly.

      Intent — to the degree that it can be ascertained — should influence how an organization decides to handle transgressions by its journalists. Succeeding chapters in this treatise speak authoritatively to those issues. But it’s time to reject an all-too-common defense — “I didn’t mean it” — and to focus on education, training and the setting of clear standards.

      While some copying of others’ material may be considered “fair use,” journalists working online should take special care to ensure that they do not infringe another’s copyright. Automatic aggregation, even with attribution, should never cross the boundaries of fair use and professional respect. The reproduction of inappropriately large portions of text may discourage a reader from visiting the original work.

      A good policy is a public policy. In making its stance on plagiarism and fabrication clear, a news organization sends a strong message about its values both to its staff and to its audience. Openness should also prevail when an incident is discovered; it must be dealt with publicly and quickly.

      http://www.rjionline.org/sites/default/files/aces_telling_the_truth_1.pdf

  • Sean

    BECAUSE he is a public representative of the (in-aptly named) “Georgia Press Association”, then if there is a legal filing – AND due to the fact that GPA so stealthily AVOIDED any opinion whatsoever UPON NOTIFICATION OF CLEAR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT, I WOULD NAME THEM AS A PARTY IN SAID SUIT.

  • Ron Harris

    Well this is all pretty interesting.

  • Local papers are an endangered species, which is worrisome when we acknowledge the important role they have traditionally played in state and local politics and culture. As a writer, I try to support them. So I find it especially sad that TNTH has displayed such disregard for the interests of a local writer who contributes so generously to the available store of information on the region. I would assume that, had management simply contacted you in timely fashion to voice their wish to re-post an article, then an amicable arrangement would’ve been easy to reach. Now the waters have been unfortunately fouled. The paper certainly could have done better. Nonetheless, I would urge all parties to bury the hatchet and try to cooperate in future. We’re all on the same side, if only we could recognize it!

  • georgiabiker

    Why in the world don’t you have a lawyer send a cease and desist?! And a demand letter for all page views profit. You get what you deserve if you don’t hire a lawyer.

    • No offense meant toward my lawyer, but I usually try to make an attorney a last resort and not the first one. It’s less expensive that way.

  • Bonnie
  • TheDude
  • Lawyer
    up! Talk to Troy, he is an excellent copyright attorney,

    Wyche
    lawyers, Troy A. Tessier, 864-242-8219, ttessier@wyche.com

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