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A letter to Janet Coats, Vice President of the Tampa Tribune, regarding the Tribune’s illegal use of my intellectual property

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by
Before you read my letter, please read:

Eric Deggans post on the Tampa Tribune being criticized in YouTube video and on blogs for using content without payment.

Alex Pickett post on his post being taken by the Tampa Tribune.

Tommy Duncan post on TBO.com stealing blog content.

Pushing Rope posts on posts being taken from the Tampa Tribune.

Dear Ms. Coats:

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me on Friday concerning the Tampa Tribune’s Web site, TBO.com, automatically featuring entire posts from my blog – Saint Petersblog – without my permission or me receiving payment for my work.

I realize this must be a difficult situation for you and your newspaper and I have tried to remain open-minded about what has occurred. Unfortunately, as I have spent the weekend cataloging the number of stories posted on TBO.com without my permission, I have become increasingly agitated.

Still, I am doing my best to maintain a conciliatory position regarding this matter, despite what I consider the egregious theft of my intellectual property.

I understand your position, as you are quoted by The St. Petersburg Times that “If we had been doing this intentionally, they would have every reason to be here with torches at my office door…but it was a mechanical process. We had no idea it was happening until the bloggers brought it to our attention.”

Unfortunately, that excuse is not good enough for me. Continue reading after the jump (a full list of my work which appeared on TBO.com is listed after the break as a series of screen captures).While what occurred may indeed be an accident, I find this hard to believe as your newspaper’s website did not republish every post I have written over the last few months, but rather, as I have determined through a cursory review of your website, what was published were stories about certain subjects. This leads me to believe that, at some point in the design of your website’s aggregation framework, someone did something, such as listing a series of keywords. For example, TBO.com republished almost every story I wrote about the St. Petersburg Mayoral Race, but not the Largo Mayoral Race.

Therefore, something was afoot. But that is your business, not mine. And I am not really interested in discussing what went wrong and how your newspaper has fixed the problem. I am interested in protecting my rights.

Because this goes beyond the simple matter of blog aggregation. In fact, I ask you to consider three different scenarios:

First, what if the shoe had been on the other foot and I simply copied and re-printed the work of Tribune writers? How quickly would I have received a cease-and-desist letter. If I had profited from such actions, how quickly would I have found myself in court?

Secondly, what if the editorial process’ failure did not end with the online edition of the Tribune? What if my work had ended up in print without my permission or me receiving payment? Certainly, your newspaper would immediately seek to remedy this situation.

Finally, consider this: much of the traffic that comes to my site derives from readers arriving on Saint Petersblog via a search engine, such as Google. So what happened if, over the last four months if my relatively new blog, with its increased visibility and readership, lost readers to my own work published on your site. How many times did a reader search for “St. Petersburg Elections” and end up on my own work republished on your site? I know that on September 1st, Election Day, my website had its busiest day in terms of traffic. But now I wonder if it would not have been busier had I not been competing against myself.

As I am quoted by The St. Petersburg Times, “I basically covered the St. Petersburg mayoral race for the Tampa Tribune.”

I have spoken informally with an attorney over the weekend and am considering retaining his counsel on this matter. These are my rights as I understand them:

My blog posts are protected by Federal Copyright Law as a literary work. My protectable rights arose upon the creation of the work. However, it appears if I do decide to bring suit I will need to register the work first. The use of notice of copyright is not necessary to preserve my rights but I should place a notice on my web site placing people on notice that all works are property of copyright owner.

The registration of the copyright creates a presumption of ownership, but in my case there does not appear to any question as to your ownership. Therefore, registration would merely be a formal prerequisite to bringing suit.

In order to be copyrightable a work must be independently created by you and contain some degree of creativity. My blog is sufficiently creative. Examples of something not containing sufficient creativity are calendars, charts and graphs, and collections of information from public documents. The information and analysis in your work is not protected, but the form is. Because you reproduced my work wholesale violation occurred.

The right violated is my right to produce and distribute copies of my work.

The newspapers defense will be the Fair Use Doctrine.

Elements of this analysis include commercial/non-commercial use, nature of the work, portion of the work used, and effect on your market. None of the factors are determinative but the fact that their use was commercial and that they copied the entire work is in your favor.

I am entitled to actual damages or additional profits of infringement. Moreover, I may be entitled to between $500 and $20,000 for each work copied.

A second friend emailed me to send me supporting documentation and to clarify two points:

…The first page shows you do not need to register your copyright to have protection from infringement. The initial term is for the fifty years following creation of the work. You can register the copyright at any time during that period.

The next two pages contain the statutory damages provisions. It appears you are actually entitled to $750 to $30,000 per item of work infringed. The previous numbers I cited were from a treatise, but the amounts have since been increased.

What follows at the end of this letter is a cursory catalog of the articles TBO.com republished without my permission (I have included the image of each article’s link found this weekend during a search of your newspaper’s website).

This cataloging includes at least forty stories that we’re republished on TBO.com without my permission. As I said, this is an egregious theft of my intellectual property.

Accordingly, please consider this an invoice for the Tampa Tribune republishing my work. If this matter is addressed immediately, I am willing to accept payment of $xxx per article ($x,xxx(x)) and will waive my rights to seek any future legal remedy. However, let me reiterate that this matter must be addressed immediately, although I am open to further discussion and/or negotiation of an arrangement of similar value.














































Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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