TBOC Set to Sue SLU for Copyright Violations
US Code Title 17 Chapter 1,111(b) Secondary Transmission of Primary Transmission to Controlled Group.— Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a) and (c), the secondary transmission to the public of a performance or display of a work embodied in a primary transmission is actionable as an act of infringement under section 501, and is fully subject to the remedies provided by sections 502 through 506 and 509, if the primary transmission is not made for reception by the public at large but is controlled and limited to reception by particular members of the public....So it would seem that the "primary transmission" of Take Back Our Campus, the fragile existence of which rests on Blogger (owned by Google) to provide us with free web-space in exchange for posting third-party ads (most often from the Republican party or some conservative think-tank), is only on http://tboclives.blogspot.com (as described in the "controlled and limited to reception by particular members of the public" statement). We gladly provide our work to the persons who visit http://tboclives.blogspot.com, free of charge, and have never asked for any more remuneration than your comments on our efforts.
However, our "primary transmission" (via Blogger) has been infringed upon. Margaret Kent Bass, in her Fall 2004 class "10 Ways to Fight Hate on Campus," felt free to make print copies of our work (on at least two separate occasions) and distribute the illegal copies in her class. She even assigned her students to write essays about our articles.
The situation is exactly the same as if Dr. Bass had taken a chapter from a book (a "primary transmission"), photocopied it and distributed it to her class ("secondary transmission to the public of a performance or display of a work embodied in a primary transmission"). That Take Back Our Campus exists in a digital rather than printed medium is not a factor. At the least, Dr. Bass should have asked TBOC for permission to reproduce our works for the purposes of her class. Though we would have gladly given reprint permission (in exchange for a fair donation to the charity of our choice), Dr. Bass decided to ignore all our rights (and our entitlement to reprint fees) and declined to even send us an e-mail telling us that she had assigned our work to her class.
Thus, we feel more than free to exercise our legal right to file suit against St. Lawrence University for Dr. Bass' obvious "secondary transmission to the public [i.e. her class] of a performance or display of a work embodied in a primary transmission [i.e. http://tboclives.blogspot.com]," which, as the above quoted text states, "is actionable as an act of infringement under section 501, and is fully subject to the remedies provided by sections 502 through 506 and 509...."
We never wished to engage in the ugly and unbecoming business of litigation. For a time, we were willing to ignore Dr. Bass' violation of our rights. We encouraged her students to send us their essays about TBOC. We even sponsored a contest for them. But as the SLU administration has chosen the lesser path of legal bullying rather than engaging us in dialogue, we've no option but to respond in kind with our own more meritorious lawsuit.
Indeed, our case against SLU is much more firm than theirs against us. They can't possibly claim "fair use," as an academic class is not a journalistic outlet, or "innocent infringement," as Dr. Bass and any other professor or administrative figure knows the proper procedure for reproduction of a work for the purposes of an academic class. (Would it be fair to say they've infringed upon our "reproductive rights"? Probably not, but I wouldn't want to be accused of losing humor in fury.)
As for Dr. Bass and the rest of the SLU Administration, well, let's call this a "teachable moment"-- don't throw stones when your Ivory Tower is made of glass.