But are they undermining free speech on the Net in the process?
This column appeared June 14, 2001, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site.
If you’re like me, you probably feel a twinge of moral ambiguity every time you download a free MP3 file — say, the Vapors’ “Turning Japanese.” (OK, so maybe no harm there.) But what’s an ethically upright citizen of the Web to do when she comes across the curious little copyright icons and permissions notices that have begun to sprout at the bottom of various online publications?
In recent weeks, an increasing number of online news publications have begun featuring links on staff-written stories that grant instant reprint and permission rights — for a price. These online clearance systems permit a user to purchase the rights to republish a news story on another site, or e-mail a formatted copy of the story to groups of recipients, or print out formatted copies for personal or business use.