Links are perfectly legal. Reprinting in entirety, especially without a link, is not.
This is actually a very old subject that's been beaten to death elsewhere on the Internet. I'm surprised to see it pop up here, now.
It might have been beaten to death - but that apparently does not stop the Associated Press from attempting to intimidate bloggers and other websites into not linking to its material. So what if the law is on the side of the bloggers - how many bloggers have the finances or the time for a legal battle with an organization as large and deep pocketed as the Associated Press?
Internet venues such as blogs and forums such as this are very powerful, disruptive and increasingly influential in leading public opinion. That makes them threats to a great many with entrenched interests - whether it be corporate interests such as the Associated Press or the RIAA with business models that have been made obsolete overnight or powerful politicians who fear the emergence of a vast army of informed critics and activists they are hardly able to keep track of let alone control.
New potential threats to freedom of online speech are dreamed up all the time. Most of these threats are not open - they are disguised as an alleged "solution" to some real or imagined injustice. One has to be ever vigilant about such things or eventually our freedom of speech will be regulated out of existence.
There is a particularly frightening proposal that is about to be published by a Harvard professor who is to to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. You can read about at this link
This professors' proposal would require that bloggers and forum owners be held liable for any "rumors" or "falsehoods" on their sites - including those posted by readers in blog comments and message boards
Now, exactly who
is to define what does and does not constitute a "falsehood" - especially when it comes to controversial topics or personalities? How easy do you suppose it is to find a consensus on something like that
? The answer, apparently, is to be provided by a court of law
From the article:
Sunstein calls for a "notice and take down" law that would require bloggers and service providers to "take down falsehoods upon notice," even those made by commenters - but without apparent penalty....
Consider how well this nudge would work.... You get a letter claiming that your facts are wrong so you should remove your post. You refuse. If, after a court proceeding proves simply that you are wrong (but not that you committed libel, which when a public figure is the target is almost impossible), you lose, the penalty is . . . you must take down your post.
How long would it take for a court to sort out the truth?.... Nobody will care anymore. But it will give politicians the ability to tie up their online critics in court.
...The legal bill is the scary part, and the reason bloggers already have plenty of reason to be careful about what they say, even if they don't much fear a libel conviction.
If this happened, the blogosphere would turn into Pluto overnight. Comments sections would slam shut. Every writer would work on a leash shorter than a shoelace.
So let's say I post something here on this message board that some local politician doesn't like (which I am sure is the case quite often, assuming that local politicians even follow this Forum). The politician's office sends John Roberts a take down notice claiming that what I have said is a "falsehood" and demanding that my posting be removed. If John does not comply, the politician will take John to court. Maybe John will lose the battle - in which case the court will force John to take it down. John will not have to face any further penalties besides having to remove the posting. But he will be out a lot of time and money as a result of the legal battle. Or maybe John will win - in which case the posting will be allowed to remain. But John will be out a great deal of time and money defending himself. Obviously a forum such as this one could not survive under such a chilling environment.
What is really frightening is not so much that I think such a proposal would stand a snowball's chance in Hades of becoming law - we haven't gone that
far down the road to serfdom quite yet that such a proposal wouldn't result in one heck of a backlash and fight. What is frightening, however, is that this little Philosopher King wannabe from Harvard is going to be heading up what is apparently a very powerful office despite its rather obscure title.
Nor is this the only threat. South Korea has already
passed a law allegedly designed to combat "cyber bullying" which requires all commentators in blog comments and message board postings and all other user generated content venues with more than 100,000 visitors to reveal and verify their real names
before posting online. Here
is an article about how Google - a company whose very existence depends on freedom of speech and a vibrant Internet - has basically thrown in the towel on a fundamental free speech issue in order to gain commercial access to the South Korean market. Google is requiring YouTube users in that country to submit to the mandated name verification before being allowed to post content.
Now, I don't know of any
civilized person who is in favor of cyber bullying. But think of the chilling implications this would have for free speech. A great many bloggers and online commentators post using pseudonyms simply because they do not wish to subject themselves and their families to harassment by various sorts of thugs who disagree with what they say.
Also, a great many commentators use pseudonyms as a wise precaution to protect their careers. It is increasingly common for employers to do google searches on the names of potential employees to see what turns up as part of pre-employment screening. If you hold strong opinions on controversial issues, do you really want that to be something that might become part of your job screening? I have a scientist friend whose day job is in academia and, in his free time, is the author of a popular blog where he expresses opinions that are very much in line with my own when it comes to issues involving free market economics and individual rights. He blogs under a pseudonym because, let's just say that most people in his particular field are thoroughly indoctrinated in Political Correctness, collectivism and statism. Making his political opinions known at work would basically be career suicide - Politically Correct individuals are not known for their tolerance of dissenting views.
Or what about people who visit and post comments on sites that deal with controversial lifestyles such as nudist or gay/lesbian sites etc? Is that something that most people would want to prospective employers to be looking at before one even lands an interview? And what if your employer was dependent upon government contracts? How likely would you be willing to loudly express opinions that either embarrass or criticize powerful officials and politicians who hold control over whether your employer does or does not get such contracts - and who could potentially make your employer know how much they disapprove of what you are writing?
Like I said, there are a great many people who fear the Internet - especially the potentially vast audiences and impact that ordinary people such as you and I can acquire assuming that we have something worth saying and which other people find of value. It was because of discussion forums similar to this one that Dan Rather no longer has a job at CBS. It was because of discussion forums such as this one that Trent Lott was forced to step down as Senate Majority Leader and his political career was forever shot to hell. What politicians and entrenched Establishments fear most is the dissemination of facts and information that shine light on their real motives and hidden agendas. And for that reason, message boards such as this and the Internet itself will always be under attack by people in powerful places who feel threated by it. They feel threatened by it because they have good reason to feel threatened - which is why we must be ever vigilant in standing up for it.