It’s Not Pharmacy Spam, It’s My *Art*, Damnit

When their comments are deleted, trolls typically complain about “censorship.” But an enterprising troll on Making Light, after having a previous comment disemvoweled, had the following interesting new angle. (Note that his post complaining about disemvoweling was also disemvoweled, but I have re-emvoweled this excerpt as best I could. Just one of the many services we provide.)

If [a] past comment here still keep the copyright [i]n [i]t (according to several experts, including [E]FF) is censoring it by removing vowels and turning it into gibberish is not only rude, it’s downright illegal.

Interestingly, the troll included the EFF as one of the “several experts” on copyright law who agreed with him. That made me curious — what does the EFF actually say about disemvoweling?

I’m upset that a moderator disemvowelled my comments. Is that illegal?

No. While we are aware of no court cases regarding disemvowelling, removing the vowels from a post is a form of criticism and commentary on that post. Even if it not explicitly permitted by the blog’s terms of use or an acceptable use policy, a court would likely consider the edit to be a fair use of your comment.

Well, what does the EFF know anyway? Buncha hippies. Hippies who are also lawyers. Hippies who are also lawyers based in San Francisco. Really, does it get any worse than that?

Quite frankly, I think that the safest legal interpretation is that once a troll or spammer deposits their droppings on your forum or blog, it becomes Sacred Text, protected by the full force of US Copyright law, WIPO, and most likely God Herself. Personally, I just hope I’m covered by fair use for daring to excerpt the troll’s comment. And for that matter, for excerpting the EFF. Although I’m somewhat less afraid of the EFF, ’cause you know, hippies — pfft.

3 thoughts on “It’s Not Pharmacy Spam, It’s My *Art*, Damnit

  1. Very interesting, that seems to be a recent addition since it didn’t show up 6 months ago:

    I wonder who updated that article in EFF’s website. It is a really shame it doesn’t have a author. Maybe it wasn’t a lawyer as you say?

    EFF’s previous interpretation (from that web archive copy I linked) was:

    “If a reader comments on my blog, does she license the rights to me?

    When a person enters comments on a blog for the purpose of public display, he is probably giving an implied license at least for that display and the incidental copying that goes along with it. If you want to make things clearer, you can add a Creative Commons license to your blog’s comment post page and a statement that by posting comments, writers agree to license them under it.

    Display and “incidental copying” are very different things from denaturing posts as done by disenvoweling. As there still isn’t a conclusive opinion I think this is still a matter open to be decided in court, which I have little doubt will happen eventually. It will be interesting to see how International law applies in this case.

    By the way don’t worry I’m not about to troll your blog. I really never intended take discussion any further in ML other than point out that Google is not in the business of providing children’s accounts, as previous discussion seemed to go everywhere but there.

    I also think abi is a very decent person and saddens me to think I was rude to her. However given the personal attack I suffered on my very first post – and I only posted on ML because I was pointed there from the father’s blog – I really had little option but take things bit further.

    As you correctly say I can be enterprising.

    Thanks for the update on the EFF situation and I wish you all the best.

  2. Imagine my surprise to discover that your link is *not* the cached version of the link that I provided above. The actual link from six months ago is this:

    … which says the same thing about disemvoweling.

    But I’m sure this was a completely honest mistake, rather than yet another attempt to be enterprising, and I’m glad to have had to opportunity to help educate you further about the EFF.

  3. You are completely right Evan, I did incorrectly post an link to another section of the same website, sorry about that. I’m just slightly confused because both pieces do not seem to complement each other.

    To add to that I also found the fine lawyers at Hearst Corporation – you know the giant media corporation with HQ in New York – have their own doubts about this disenvoweling procedure and ordered one of their bloggers to stop doing it.

    This was done about 6 months after the EFF link you post was updated with the mentioned section ( Feb 2009, according to Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing)

    I’m not sure what to make of this difference of opinion between SF and NY. Maybe you can shed some light on the matter?

Comments are closed.