When Scott Greenfield complained about an outfit called USLaw.com which was republishing his blog articles in their entirety, I didn’t think they were doing anything terribly wrong because Scott’s blog publishes a syndication feed, and this is what syndication looks like.
Scott disagrees. He doesn’t think that’s proper use of a feed, and he says my position indicates that I don’t think my original content has value. My co-blogger Joel also disagrees with me, but he’s less diplomatic: “the SOB is selling my stuff, without my goddamn permission.” Since intellectual property lawyer Marc Randazza agrees with both of them, I have to concede. The rules must have changed since the wild-west days when I learned about RSS feeds.
In some ways, my disagreement with Scott and Joel is a culture clash. I do think my original content has value, but I have different ideas about how to exploit that value. Scott is blogging about his profession, and Joel is a professional author, so I think they have more invested in distributing their original content. On the other hand, I’m blogging for fun about stuff outside my area of expertise.
It’s like they’re Metallica and U2, and I’m just an indy garage band. They’re worried about the threat of piracy, but for my purposes, obscurity is the greater threat.
Anyway, USLaw.com has responded to this in a most entertaining way.
Dear Mr. Greenfield,
I was sorry to hear that you are unhappy with the way our web site has made use of your content. We appreciate the hard work you’ve put into your blog, and we felt our readers would appreciate it as well. In addition, many bloggers feel they benefit from being listed in our directory. Nevertheless, it was not our intent to offend you or make illegitimate use of your content, and in light of your objection, I have removed your blog from our site. I hope that we can pursuade you to reconsider at a later date.
is what *I* would have written.
The folks at USLaw—which may just be a guy calling himself “Gregory Chase”—took an…alternative…approach:
Scott Greenfield – Simply Unjust or Forgetful?
Some of USLaw.com’s responses to Scott Greenfield’s erroneous accussation have been censored and removed from Simple Justice’s comment thread. What follows is an updated and less passionate interim comment.
Scott Greenfield is a prolific and rambunctious law blogger with an admitted yen for controversy (perhaps one that is occasionally greater than his yen for fairness). He represents the best and unfortunately, in this case, the risks of what the law blog community offers (one sided intellectual bullying). We are surprised by his unjust behavior in this particular matter.
So, while trying to build a legal web site—and having some success, judging by the page rank—he’s decided to badmouth a top legal blogger and accuse him of censorship because he won’t let him post their comments on his blog. Does he realize this makes him look unprofessional? And a little crazy?
When I titled my previous post “The Evil that USLaw.com Does,” it was just a tongue-in-cheek title for a post in which I argued that USLaw.com wasn’t as bad as Scott thought, but they were still making a few mistakes. After a response like this one, I think I have to reassess the level of evil upward.
(To be fair to USLaw, they also claim to have asked for and recieved permission from Scott to list his blog in their directory. They list my blog too, but I looked through my email and I can’t find any requests from them. Make of that what you will.)
Seeing how Mr. Chase has responded, I can’t help but think that Scott was responding to more than just the theft of intellectual property. Being a criminal lawyer, he probably encounters psychopathic personalities all the time, and I imagine he picks up the clues pretty quickly when he encounters someone who will be trouble. I think he must have had a Blink-style intuitive flash about just how much craziness was hidden behind the USLaw.com website.
Scott has put up his own post about all this. As is often the case, Joel has posted the best comment:
You know, just the other day I was talking to myself. Jdog, I said — I call myself that — it’d be a really smart thing to infringe on the intellectual property — copyright, trademarks, whatever — of a smart, prickly guy with a law degree. Maybe he wouldn’t notice. If he did, maybe he wouldn’t care. If he cared, maybe he wouldn’t complain. If he complained, maybe I could bully him into backing down.
Scott Greenfield is pretty far from the aggressive lawyer stereotype you see on TV shows, but you’d have to be nuts to think you can intimidate him like this. I mean, really, Gregory, you’re threatening to embarass him with an email? This is a guy who makes a living by telling federal prosecutors to go fuck themselves.
And have you noticed how many other lawyers are dropping in to leave comments? It’s like you strapped raw steaks to your body and jumped in the shark tank.
The good news is that most of these guys are criminal lawyers. That’s a good thing for you because their job is getting people out of trouble. When you get right down to it, they don’t really want to hurt you.
The bad news is that Marc Randazza has also jumped in. He makes his living from these kind of lawsuits—hell, he teaches this stuff—and he clearly enjoys his work. When he says “I think it would be a worthwhile and enjoyable endeavor to sue the living shit out of ‘Mr. Chase'”, he’s speaking as a guy who knows exactly how to do it. (Especially since USLaw.com is republishing his blog as well.)
Understand, when all is said and done, while I have not granted any rights to USLaw.com to re-publishe Windypundit content, it still doesn’t really bother me. Of course it doesn’t really help me either. In the last 3 months, referrals from USLaw.com have amounted to 0.08% of my traffic. I’m pretty sure I could drum up more interest by scrawling my URL on a few bathroom walls.
Addendum: Events have overtaken me. The USLaw.com site was down last night, and now that it’s back, it’s only publishing summaries and it’s linking to the full articles at the original blogs. That’s the right way to be a part of the community rather than just leeching off it.