"Death and Football," an important and seminal article about the long-term impact of football injuries, written by Clark Booth for Boston alternative weekly the Real Paper in January 1976, is back online -- legally this time -- thanks to the New York Times.
Although the story got caught in the middle of an ideological cock-fight about copyright between myself and the Times, that skirmish is over, and it's a pleasure to be able to recommend you go immediately to the Times site and read Booth's piece, which is a classic. Given the Times's more recent reporting on football and concussions, there's a nice rhyme to Booth's article finding a new home there.
Times columnist Joe Nocera, who deserves all of the credit for remembering Booth's work, and also for having it republished (twice!) by the newspaper of record, announced the re-publication last night on his Times blog.
Since Nocera singled me out by name and suggested I'd done nothing to get Booth's story back online, I'll respond briefly: I reached out to Clark Booth via email (through the Dorchester Reporter, where Booth's work still appears) to ask his permission to reprint "Death and Football," and to apologize for having been the reason the Times removed its copyright-infringing PDF of his story. I haven't heard back from him. My offer to Booth still stands: I'd love to republish "Death and Football" online, along with as many of Booth's pieces for the Real Paper as we can track down. [UPDATE, 2/15 4:23 pm. Heard back from Clark Booth and will also be republishing "Death and Football" on the Phoenix site, as well as other of his works as we find them.]
As for Nocera's claim that he contacted an unnamed Phoenix executive and was told the copyright for the story (as opposed to the photos and presentation) belongs to Booth: the "executive" in question, former editor-in-chief Peter Kadzis, says he spoke to Nocera off the record, and felt snookered to have been referred to in print -- not least because Kadzis was expressing an opinion on where the copyright lay, not an official position. [UPDATE, 2/15 3:30 pm: Nocera disputes Kadzis's account in the comments section of this article. See below.] But that's water under the bridge. In my first column, I pointed out that with or without our consent, the Times could have stayed within the copyright laws by doing exactly what Nocera had his assistant do yesterday -- getting the permission of the author and retyping the story.
The Times has repeatedly tried to make this specific copyright the story -- which, for me, it has never been. I only wished to make a point about the overbearing absurdity of current copyright laws, using an example that the Times -- and, more specifically, former Times executive editor Bill Keller -- could not ignore.
And on that note, it's a great day for the alternative press: I can't recall the New York Times ever republishing a long-form article by another newspaper of any stripe, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't proud for Clark Booth, and for the Real Paper.