In his curious new response to my previous disembowelings of his columns on copyright, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller suggests that the Times somehow did not engage in copyright infringement by uploading a pirated PDF of a Real Paper story last week. "I leave to lawyers – if any care to waste the time – to argue whether
making that PDF available crossed any line in the copyright law," he writes. We're sorry that Mr. Keller didn't get the memo, but the New York Times has already admitted that it did: "We were not aware of the violation when the story was posted," the Times told Business Insider. The Times also implicitly acknowledged their guilt by removing links to the PDF from two recent online columns.
Furthermore, Joe Nocera, the New York Times columnist who uploaded the Real Paper PDF -- as well as another infringing PDF that I reported on the next day -- has already acknowledged he erred in doing so. When I pointed out to him that, last year, he had uploaded a copy of the Boston Review to the Times web site instead of linking to the same article on Boston Review's site, Nocera said, "You're right. I have not thought about these issues as closely as I could."
So if the Times and Nocera admit they were wrong, why can't Keller? Instead, typically, Keller spent a few hundred words painting himself as a martyr:
What originated as a pretty clumsy polemic in The Phoenix deteriorated
when it hit social media. In the reductionist world of Twitter, it
became “The Times stole our column while Keller was whining about
piracy,” or, as the issue moved down the evolutionary scale to the
knuckle-draggers, “Keller stole a column,” though nobody has suggested I
had anything to do with the disputed PDF file except – Irony! – the
timing of my column on copyright.
Well, Bill, "The Times stole our column while Keller was whining about piracy" is not Twitter reductionism. That's what's known in the news business as a "fact." Confirmed by two sources. In your building.
But, while I was at it, I went looking for the knuckle draggers. It shouldn''t be hard to do: let's search Twitter for the phrase "Keller stole." Want to know the exact number of people who tweeted that? Here it is: Zero. So the second half of the above clause is what is known in the news business as a "fabrication." It did not happen. Unless you want to argue about the meaning of the verb "became." Maybe you just meant . . . metaphorically? Ironically? I don't know, Bill -- in the tendentious hands of you big-city columnists, anything's possible, I guess. Also, I suppose "coincidental" is a much better word than "hypocritical" to describe a newspaper at which one columnist rails against copyright infringement while another commits it. You totally nailed me on that one. Good job by you.
Sorry, got off on a tangent. Where was I? Oh, right: trying to figure our which part of my polemic Keller found clumsy. Wait, maybe we'll find it down here:
Nowhere did I suggest that the law should criminalize the illustrative
uploading of a 36-year-old alt-weekly article that is otherwise
Just want that on the record, folks. The former Executive Editor of the New York Times says that as long as copyright applies to a) not the New York Times, but instead some smaller and less mainstream newspaper; and that b) that content is not otherwise available -- it's open season! Take whatever you want! Bill Keller says it's not criminal! (Quick, Twitter: #KellerDoctrine. Go.)
Oh, also, Bill? Here's the part where you totally suggested that:
The difference between stealing Malcolm Gladwell’s new book off the
shelf at Barnes and Noble and stealing the e-book version from a pirate
site is just that in the first case you’re likely to get caught. The
moral distinction is nonexistent. Abbie Hoffman (the Yippy anarchist who
wrote “Steal This Book,” to which the headline on my column alluded)
would be so proud of you . . . One email (from a lawyer, interestingly) insisted that “people who
violate this stupid law are no more law-breakers than those who violated
the Fugitive Slaves Act or the Prohibition laws–nominally criminal, but
in fact not.” No. Stealing this work is not civil disobedience, and to
liken it to the abolitionists is obscene. It is theft.
And finally (because even I stopped giving a shit about this argument five minutes ago), Bill Keller's Lame Column Fail #4:
By the way, when the Boston Phoenix objected, The Times took down the
PDF, triumphantly depriving Clark Booth of the chance to be read by a
lot of current readers.
As I reported yesterday: The Times did not take down the PDF. The PDF is still on the Times servers and is still accessible by searching the Web. If Bill Keller were smarter, he'd know the difference between the link to a thing and the thing itself.
Oh, also: Bill? If the Times is so concerned with publishing Clark Booth? I've got a better idea:
Why don't you loan him your column?