When the popular New York business blog Silicon Alley Insider quoted a quarter of Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column in mid-February, the editor added a caveat at the end: “We thank Dow Jones in advance for allowing us to bring it to you.”
Generally, the excerpts have been considered legal, and for years they have been welcomed by major media companies, which were happy to receive links and pass-along traffic from the swarm of Web sites that regurgitate their news and information.
But some media executives are growing concerned that the increasingly popular curators of the Web that are taking large pieces of the original work — a practice sometimes called scraping — are shaving away potential readers and profiting from the content.
Scraping is unquestionably inappropriate and lawsuits stemming from it may often be justifiable. However, it would be an enormous mistake for the courts to stop bloggers from publishing brief excerpts and links to original stories that appear elsewhere. Such behavior clearly falls under the fair use exception to copyright law. Also, stopping people from doing that would cripple the Internet as a news distribution medium.
And, yes, I'm fully aware of the irony involved in me excerpting and linking to an article discussing whether doing so may be illegal. However, I'm always careful not to take too much original content. Really, I tease to stories as much as I excerpt from them. It would be ridiculously irrational for any content creator to be upset by this blog.