Tag Archives: community management

Fair Use Online and in Discussion Forums

Patrick O’Keefe who writes a fantastic blog at ManagingCommunities.com posted about fair use in forum postings.  This is an interesting topic given the shifting nature of consumer behavior on the web.  We are part of a gimme culture these days, expecting lots for free that folks used to make bundles of money on (news, music, analysis – today we call them “blogs,” etc.).  In Patrick’s article he attempts to provide clear guidelines on fair use, correctly telling members that “fair use is a defense” to claims of infringement by the copyright holder.

I would argue that as much as fair use is a “defense” it has become a culture and guideline.  As I say in my comment to his blog post (reprinted entirely below – it’s my work so fair use doesn’t apply!), even the courts have been fuzzy on fair use.  How much is too much?  We’ve heard standards like don’t take “the heart of the work,” 150 words or less, and no more than 10% of the work.  What my comment speaks to is how we are becoming used to more use as a digital culture and that this might not be fair to traditional copyright ownership.

Okay – comment number 2 for your blog today Patrick and then I have to get back to work (my cousin, Howard Greenstein, recommended your work to me yesterday). You have correctly identified it as a defense to copyright infringement allowing the excerpting of small portions of a work.  Courts have been in the gray area with fair use because the more granular you go the harder it is to carve out.  When you start getting into word counting or fractions of a work it can be a nightmare.

Blogs and social sharing are doing some interesting things to fair use. As tools like “share this,” embedding, and quote posts have become so common place on the web we are seeing a greater flexibility in what may be considered fair use.  For example, on my blog Mintz’s Wordz I do a lot of embedding of YouTube videos (most recently a bunch of Steve Jobs Keynotes).  Now the displaying of these videos on my blog theoretically violates some of the rights of the copyright holder (a copyright or any property right can be compared to “bundle of sticks” – each stick can represent a different right in what we understand to be the bundle called “the copyright”).  But given the embedding features on YouTube, the prevalence with which others embed such videos, and the unlikelihood of anyone following up on such postings – copyright culture is changing.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t enforce fair use policies or that copyright holders should allow everyone to freely take their work (unless that is your thing).  What it means is we need to rethink what it means to permit “fair use” in a viral media landscape.  How much is fair?  Personally, I use a very sophisticated system for determining things like fair use, ethics, etc.  It’s called “the icky factor.”  If it feels icky, you might want to rethink doing it, because in a connected world ickiness gets sniffed out pretty quickly and can frustrate any benefits you may have thought to reap by being icky.

How do you think copyright ownership should change in light of the viral web?  Do we need a more clear standard of fair use or a more flexible one?  How much do you think is fair?

Disclaimer: nothing in here should be construed as legal advice.  Answering my questions in the comments does not create a lawyer/client relationship (hell, I’m not even practicing at the moment!).  Blah, blah, blah ….

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Filed under Legal, social media

How to Listen on the Web

Social media makes everybody …

A NEWS STUDIO – sites like Daily Me allow republishing of personalized news

A MOVIE STUDIO – “You Tube Video Lands $30 Million Movie Deal

A PUBLISHING COMPANY – social publishing


A GOSSIP COLUMN Perez Hilton became one of the most read columnists in Hollywood.


With everyone contributing something on the web, attention becomes our most sought after commodity.  How is anyone supposed to listen with all this chatter?  The way I do it is pretty simple.  Between Google Reader and Alerts, my iPhone, and Twitter I can keep a pretty good tabs on all the things I want to hear.  This is my abbreviated step-by-step guide to filtering out the noise.

Get a Google Reader account.

This will allow you to aggregate subscription content from webistes through RSS feeds usually by clicking the little icon that looks like this:

You will then get updates whenever the site content changes.  The best way to use your RSS Reader is to scan the headlines for anything that looks like something you want to digest.  Star items that you want to come back to or email them to yourself (there are other applications for reading RSS items later, such as Readitlater or Instapaper, but I want everything in one place).  Google Reader keeps starred items in a separate folder for you.  Using this method will allow you to get through your RSS inbox rather quickly, keeping it from piling up.  If you’re anything like me you get about 400 updates per day – reading everything is not an option and stopping to read while you are doing your sorting will only result in more pile up.

Get a Google Alerts account.


RSS subscriptions are great for keeping up with the sites you know about, but what about those sites you don’t know about?  To listen on the web you need to be able to customize what content gets fed to you.  Enter Google Alerts, step 2 of setting up your listening post.  Simply type in the term you want to receive alerts about, change the preferences to receive updates in your Google Reader, and you are done.  Anytime that term or terms hit Google’s index you will be sent an RSS alert.  You can customize alerts for immediate delivery or daily digest.

NOOB quick tip: put terms like “social media” or other multiple word searches in “quotation marks” so that Alerts look for the full term.

Get an iPhone

We are not going into the details of getting an iPhone, but the takeaway here is that having a mobile device to read your feeds makes filtering, maintaining, and digesting the information much easier.  I will check and filter feeds while walking the dog, waiting in line, and sitting on the bus.  The app I use to read my feeds is called MobileRSS, a totally free reader that has a lot of functionality.  My favorite feature is the ability to send feed items to Twitter, Email, or other places with 1-click.  This allows me and my network to follow up on items of interest that I find.  For example, after seeing and scanning Martin Reed’s post Online Community Metrics: numbers you need to pay attention to, I emailed the item to my team from MobileRSS.  While I filtered the rest of my RSS list and then came back to the post to read it in depth, other team members had set up a meeting to discuss metrics in our community, drafted an agenda, and looked forward to discussing the issue.  We recently had a productive meeting and figured out some new strategies based on this golden nugget from my listening post.

A Word About Twitter

Besides Google alerts, I also use Tweetdeck to listen.  Tweetdeck is a 3rd party application that lets you maintain columns which monitor Twitter.  The columns can watch your network’s activity, mentions about you, direct messages, Twitter trends, or any topic you specify in search.  The usefulness here is when I’m working on Twitter related items and don’t want to keep checking my Google Reader.  Since I have Tweetdeck open anyway to send messages for the company, I can simultaneously monitor Twitter for chatter about our company or any subject I am interested in.  We will have to see how Google Real-time Search changes the usefulness of Tweetdeck, but for now I find it to be a good tool in the box.

So there you have it: the ways I listen on the web.  What are your methods?  Do you use any of these tools or something different (ex/ Net Vibes)?  Does your company use a service like Radian6 to professionally monitor?

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