26 December 2011

Ethical Conundrum: How much is too much?

Saving Ethical Journalism —

Aggregation and curation have become a normal part of online news processes. It seems acceptable to take a certain amount of content from a source, as long as you attribute properly and provide outside links, so there's no confusion about where you got the story.

The question is, how much content can you take before you actually felt like you were violating the intellectual property rights of the original author? 10%... 20%... 50% or more? How much is too much and how much is okay?

This is a legal question (10% is the rule in Australia, but U.S. Copyright law does not define a word count or limit), but it is also a question of ethics, perhaps even morality. Credible aggregator Jim Romenesko got flak from Poynter's Julie Moos in November for not putting quotation marks around direct quotes, but Mr. Romenesko's attribution was clear.

But how much information is okay to take, with or without quotation marks? After the frivolous Righthaven lawsuits were exposed for what they are, it seems aggregation can be a Fair Use, but how do we define "fair"?

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