For most of this year, possibly longer, The Huffington Post has been syndicating articles on their site with links back to the original source. The general idea is to take 2-3 paragraphs from the original source, then link out at the end so that readers can continue reading the article on the original site.
I’ve always found the model interesting, but I also presumed that it was done with permission; we now run a small about of content here at The Inquisitr on the similar basis, although always with permission from authors upfront.
It turns out that The Huffington Post not only didn’t have permission, but at times were republishing full posts, not just extracts.
Wired got comment from The Huffington Post, saying the examples of full content being used were an error, and that the syndication posts help promote sites and deliver traffic to the source. They also noted that the headlines also link to the source, at that 95% of the time readers never hit the extract page, instead going straight to the source.
It’s a double dose of copyright gray not well considered.
Running 2-3 paragraphs of a longer post with a link back may constitute fair use, but not adding to the content and running it whole (even if only part of the post) starts to get fishy on the fair use part, when considering that fair use in this context would normally be considered when quoting in the context of unique content.
I’m not about to widely condemn The Huffington Post for the practice, poorly played out as might have been the case, but it does very much surprise me that they didn’t attempt to obtain permission up front for printing the extracts; likewise I’m sure that it wouldn’t be hard for them to find willing partners who would welcome their content on The Huffington Post in this way, given the staggering amounts of traffic the site pumps through, where even a small cut of links could instantly deliver tens of thousands of page views each time a site gets linked to.
For others it is a lesson learned: when in doubt, ask for permission. We did.