Monday, May 22, 2006

Copyright & Fair Use Comic - Lawyers Shouldn't Steal

I get a lot of calls about fair use. "Can I use this image?" "Can we copy this article?" Fair use ("the fair use doctrine") is governed by and defined under the Copyright Act 17 U.S.C. 107. Research, scholarly criticism, news reporting . . . these are some of the terms found in the statute. Each term has volumes of cases and complicated tests interpreting it. Recently, the Second Circuit decided that a book about the Grateful Dead could use small images of Grateful Dead posters to illustrate a timeline in a biographic work about the band without licensing the rights.

Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain has put together a terrific comic book explaining copyright law and what constitutes fair use. The book is directed at documentary filmmakers, but is an excellent illustration of the concerns that people (such as lawyers blogging) wishing to use copyrighted works for non-commercial, semi-commercial, or transformative uses face. It also is a great introduction, in graphic novel format, to the great cultural debates going on as described in such books as Professor Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture.

I hope that the authors and Duke University will keep up the comic book format - it's fun and contains powerful images that really drill home the practical problems facing authors, artists and educators.

Bloggers should start educating themselves on how to avoid claims that they are stealing the works of others. Tricks like using small snippets and linking back to the author, making sure the author is credited and trying to use as little of the work is necessary, and making sure that the work is commented upon are all not only good etiquette, but may bring your borrowings under the fair use doctrine. Maybe. I'm a lawyer, but I'm not giving legal advice here. As lawyers, however, no one will feel sorry for us if we are caught stealing. Be careful my friends. When sampling busted out in the 80's, it was cool and free. When it started making money, it got shut down. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

On the other hand, if you know your rights and want to take a principled stand, go for it. Just make sure it's creative expression, not laziness and plagiarism that you're going to bat for.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Traffic Index #3: Da Vinci Code Weekend

Numbers based on rankings of website by traffic by Alexa:

St. Mary Magdalen Dominican Parish No Data
Knights Templar, Salem, MA No Data
Priory of St. Bernard De Clairvaux (Louisiana) No Data
Grand Priory of Knights Templar of England and Wales No Data
Sony Pictures 966
Random House 4,803
The Vatican 7,175
Official Website of Dan Brown 14,117
The Louvre Museum 21,901
Opus Dei 50,343
Opus Dei Awareness Network 118,928
Rosslyn Chapel Templars 365,105 437,393
Small Firm Life 848,621
Grand Encampment of Knights Templar (USA) 856,215
San Graal School of Sacred Geometry, Sevierville, TN 1,192,081
Dowd & Marotta 1,206,861
Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem 2,337,534
The Sovereign Great Priory of Canada 3,209,218

Traffic Index History:

Traffic Index #1: Where Small Firms Stand March 10, 2006
Dowd & Marotta Website was at 4,814,282
Traffic Index #2: Tax Day in the Blogosphere April 16, 2006
Small Firm Life was at 1,188,011
Dowd & Marotta Website was at 1,478,589
Small Firm Life 848,621
Dowd & Marotta 1,478,589
Small Firm Life was launched on February 11, 2006. Other than the posts to Small Firm Life, my firm has engaged in no other promotion of the Dowd & Marotta website.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Stealing Content From Flock

I am testing out Flock, a new open-source toolbar that is supposed to make it easy to grab web content and blog it easily.

Grabbing content to use later

Grabbing content to use later - Flock Community

Friday, May 19, 2006

Successful Format for Blogging Workshop

Our workshop on blogging at the New York County Lawyers' Association was very successful. It was sold out. AttorneyKaiser Wahab and I made a pretty good team and I think provided pretty good perspectives on how to create and use a blog. Nuchine Nobari, NYCLA's head librarian, was very thoughtful in giving ideas on what people needed to know, in configuring the space, and in helping us generally. I'm throwing out some thoughts for anyone considering organizing a similar workshop.

It was important to show how to register a domain name. We registered the domain name for Nuchine by going through Network Solutions. Participants also were not familiar with the WHOIS search, so we showed that. If you go to, and click on WHOIS, you can find information on who owns a particular website. We advised to reserve a domain name that will correspond with your blog name. It's not necessary, but it's nice. For example, I own When I get fancy, I will connect this blog to that domain name. Stay tuned.

To launch the blogging portion of the NYCLA workshop, we oversaw Nuchine as she created a blog on There was almost no introduction to the topic, aside from a welcome from Ron Katter, the Chair of the NYCLA Committee on Solo and Small Practice. We had a digital projector showing how she did it. Then, on the 14 library computer stations, we walked around and helped everyone create a blog on Blogger and make a post. Since the library had a wireless connection, people could have worked from laptops. Once a laptop has logged into Blogger, Blogger will recognize the user. So I couldn't access Blogger through Kaiser's laptop. We had to disconnect and reconnect to my laptop to show my blog from the laptop. An important point for future presenters who may count on sharing a laptop: bring your own just in case.

We found that no partipants brought laptops. Also, none had started blogs. I was a little surprised at both, I thought that we might have attracted at least one current blogger.

After setting up Nuchine's blog and helping all participants set up their own blogs, both Kaiser and I gave guided tours our respective blogs, showing the range of capabilities of blogs and their purpose. I showed a few of my Small Firm Life posts demonstrating various blogging tricks like inserting links and photographs. I demonstrated the utility of Sitemeter and how Feedburner works. Kaiser showed how a Yahoo RSS reader works and how to subscribe and change the hierarchy of subscriptions.

Participating attorneys were smart, quick and practical. They put together an interesting range of creative blogs in a matter of minutes. Lots of great questions.

I think the decision to have people create blogs and then talk about them was a good one. Everyone was very psyched and completely experienced the medium's capabilities before we downloaded all of the fancy things on them. I had fun, learned a few things, met some great people and would definitely do it again. My advice to anyone putting on a similar event is to show, rather than telling. People wanted to know HOW, not WHY.

Special thanks to Olivera Medenica, C0-Chair of NYCLA's EMIPS (Entertainment Media Intellectual Property and Sports Law Section) for co-sponsoring the event, promoting it and helping to organize.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Invasion of the Killer Blogs : CSUSA & NYCLA

It's 6:10 p.m. and I'm sitting in the library of the New York County Lawyers' Association. Kaiser Wahab and I are prepping a presentation and hands-on workshop on creating blogs for attorneys.

I attended a Copyright Society Luncheon today at the Princeton Club on blogging that was moderated by Prof. William Patry of The Patry Copyright Blog and featuring Marty Schwimmer of The Trademark Blog, along with Tom Kirby and Jeff Neuberger. I was fortunate enough to talk to Prof. Patry for a bit, along with the other speakers.

Blogging seems to be exploding. Tom Kirby's presentation made blogging out to be the unregulated political loophole that should make it a deciding factor in upcoming elections. He opined that corporations will finally have a voice in elections, a statement that I found troubling, since I think corporations have too many voices in our elections.

Looking forward to May 23 - The Copyright Office is coming to Fordham Law School, and June 11-13 - the Copyright Society's annual meeting at The Sagamore on Lake George.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Technical Issues In Posting Photos To A Blog

People have complained for years about the photograph that I currently have posted on my profile. Others have praised it strongly. It was taken in 1999. It's a black and white photograph taken by a major photographer named Pascal DeMeester. He used a very old 8 x 10 Polaroid camera. That means that the Polaroid negative was the size of a sheet of looseleaf paper. He used a color negative to create an interesting effect. We scanned the photograph, retouched it, and I have used it for the web.

I recently asked my friend and client, photographer Jacob Getz to do a headshot for me. That's the photo you see here. Jacob took a number of great photographs and took some with interesting poses. I'm not particularly photogenic, so the man does miracles.

The files that he provided with me originally were for print publication or high resolution web publication. The files were much larger than the 300 MB per photo that Blogger permits. He was kind enough to reduce the file size and provide me with this version, which I'm able to post. I'm trying to replace the photograph that I have in my current profile, and the problem is that Blogger requires a photograph to already have a URL for it to serve as your "profile" photograph. I will try posting this, then using the posted photograph to change my profile photograph.

As I announced in an earlier post, I am planning a Spring Cleaning for Small Firm Life (what they call an extreme makeover on the West Coast). Figuring out how to update a photograph and how to better handle photographs generally is on the agenda.

Since I'm giving a presentation on May 17 at the New York County Lawyers' Association on creating a blog, I would really like to have a handle on these elementary issues.

Monday, May 01, 2006

How To Advertise a Blog

This is a snapshot of Small Firm Life's killer advertising campaign. From March 22, 2006 through May 1, 2006, we've achieved two clicks. We've also gotten 1,937 impressions. People are seeing the ad (featured at the top left of the screenshot), but obviously fighting back a desire to click. The total cost for this nationwide ad blitz is thirty-three cents. Initially, the campaign was limited to New York, but I increased the geographic footprint to the United States. I also added the word "blawg" and "solo practice". Cost per click: 16.5 cents. Cost per impression: .0001703 cents. 125 people searching "blawg" now presumably know - at least subliminally - that Small Firm Life exists.

Look out, William Randolph Hearst - the micromedia micromarketing age of publishing is here!

Small Firm Life is finding true value in the Google Adsense program, even within our frugal parameters and an international assault is being considered.

Good Links From a Blog: The Patry Copyright Blog

I am an avid fan of Professor Patry's Copyright Blog. I'd say it's become pretty much required reading for lawyers serious about copyright. Professor Patry's deeply reasoned and well-researched posts appear almost daily, exhibiting a breathtaking erudition and a virtuoso grasp of his subject. He writes with the confidence of someone who can tell us how a judge bungled a copyright issue in the latest decision, and doesn't mind pointing it out. He's also got fiercely held opinions on policy issues, which make tackling some very technical issues fun, no matter what your copyright politics are. I don't usually read the comments, but I have noted that he attracts some of the best in the field.

In his post of April 30, he writes about a Los Angeles photographer suing the country of Burundi for copyright infringement. Burundi's 10,000 franc note has what appears to be an engraved rendering of the Californian's photograph.

I've noticed that Prof. Patry is good about creating links to PDF files to all sorts of things. In this case, a PDF of the complaint, which has a color photograph of both the allegedly infringed work, along with a color image of the 10,000 franc note. His blog notes that he "created" the link, and I can click to the PDF and even save it to my computer if I'd like, but can't tell how or where it is stored. In a couple of weeks I hope to do a "spring cleaning" of my blog, putting a blogroll together, removing the nasty Google Ads featuring my low-cost competitors, and trying to add as many bells & whistles as I can.

According to, Prof. Patry's blog rates #444,137 as of today. That's some pretty serious traffic, and it does not look like he has added many bells and whistles to drive traffic to his site. In fact, his template still has the "edit me" links from the Blogger template. Just shows that a serious commitment to quality will attract visitors.