Monday, August 15, 2005

"Ass Tee" crackdown!

I was just informed by a close friend of mine who works at an IT training firm as a IT/web kinda personnel, that their company has been sued by a Major English local newspaper with a name that sounds vaguely like "Ass Tee". Apparently they are slapped with coupla thousand dollars fine for references to the paper on their corporate website.

From what I know so far, these references include mere mention of the newspaper's name, as well as inclusion of quotes on articles that mention the word "Ass Tee", and even on articles that were commissioned and paid for by the IT company themselves. Some of these articles date way back to as far as 3 years ago. Even when references has been made (like "taken from Ass Tee, on XX Date Month Year"), those are counted as a copyright infringement as well. This local newspaper has further reiterated that any articles referenced must be no older than within 3 days of its publishing, if not it would be considered illegal.

Also included in the "fine", was the investigative charge that was chargeable to the firm that was sued, for the effort needed to scour through their site for such evidences. Narbey cheebye .... this is daylight robbery. It's as if calling the police via 999 (or 911 in US), and u have to pay toll fees after they have taken your report. Why don't they put up a form for people to submit information on who they can sue next, and then pay the informant for his/her "investigative work"?

I will be following up with this friend about this issue and report back. Apparently another of my friend also have received similar threats .. ahem .. warnings, about these crackdown from Ass Tee themselves.

I seriously wonder how this thing works? I never heard of other papers like CNN or NY times going after companies for quoting or even mentioning their names in their articles or papers. For instance, when News.com claim that Washington Times reported such and such, do they have to pay Washington Times for even mentioning that?? I seriously wonder how far "Ass Tee" is going to pursue this copyright infringement thingy and how it will affect the local blogging scene.

Update: Decided to keep updating this post as opposed to placing a new one on my site all the time. Makes easier reading/tracking by the readers. Here are the consolidated updates as per below.

"Ass Tee" Crackdown update
Did some research into the Singapore's Copyright Act. We have a "Fair Dealing" clause that is fairly similar to the US's "Fair Use" Section.

From the Singapore Copyright Act http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/ (Search under Copyright Act "Fair Dealing")

Fair dealing for purpose of criticism or review
36. A fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or with an adaptation of a literary, dramatic or musical work, shall not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the work if it is for the purpose of criticism or review, whether of that work or of another work, and a sufficient acknowledgment of the work is made.

109. —(1) Subject to this section, a fair dealing with an audio-visual item for any purpose other than a purpose referred to in section 110 or 111 shall not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the item or in any work or other audio-visual item included in the item.
(2) The purposes for which a dealing with an audio-visual item may constitute a fair dealing under subsection (1) shall include research and study.
(3) For the purposes of this Act, the matters to which regard shall be had, in determining whether a dealing with an audio-visual item, being a dealing by way of copying the whole or a part of the audio-visual item, constitutes a fair dealing with the audio-visual item for any purpose other than a purpose referred to in section 110 or 111 shall include —
(a) the purpose and character of the dealing, including whether such dealing is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
(b) the nature of the audio-visual item;
(c) the amount and substantiality of the part copied taken in relation to the whole audio-visual item;
(d) the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the audio-visual item; and
(e) the possibility of obtaining the audio-visual item within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price.

Fair dealing for purpose of criticism or review
110. A fair dealing with an audio-visual item shall not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the item or in any work or other audio-visual item included in the item if it is for the purpose of criticism or review, whether of the first-mentioned audio-visual item, another audio-visual item or a work, and a sufficient acknowledgment of the first-mentioned audio-visual item is made.

Fair dealing for purpose of reporting news
111. A fair dealing with an audio-visual item shall not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the item or in any work or other audio-visual item included in the item if —
(a) it is for the purpose of, or is associated with, the reporting of news in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical and a sufficient acknowledgment of the first-mentioned audio- visual item is made; or
(b) it is for the purpose of, or is associated with, the reporting of news by means of broadcasting or a cable programme service, by any other means of communication to the public, or in a cinematograph film.

As you see, "fair dealing" only applies mainly to a "literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or with an adaptation of a literary, dramatic or musical work" or "an audio-visual" item. It states nothing specific about a national newspaper's works or articles that are published. Can these works be constituted as "literary" works? If I suppose bloggers are writing a critic or review on Ass Tee's "literary" works, then we're free to quote them as long as we make sufficient acknowledgment. However, if a company's website quotes from Ass Tee, I'd say good luck. Better start working on cleansing your site or feel Ass Tee's Wrath!

Then another question arise. If a Blog is sponsored or money making, would it be considered a commercial site or a private site? And would it be targeted by Ass Tee's team of lawyers? Or as long as it is in a form of a review/critcism, it will be ok?

Then finally, if companies just change their articles to a "review"/"criticism" form that talks about the reviews/articles/writeups about them by Ass Tee, and would this avoid all the trouble and thus be free to quote all they want? A review or criticism piece about reviews/critcism/writeups by others. How messy ....

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
"Ass Tee" Crackdown Details
Well, seems like my friend responded in the comments section of the original post. I'll place it here as an update:

"Anonymous said...
Hmm.. well... lets just say no warning letter was given prior to that instead a registered letter titled Reproduction of Published Articles came in the mail.

In it, it printed out the entire company website + cited the articles were reproduced. It also included charges for purchasing the articles and cost of their field work investigation of S$640.
It also include the costing of their licencing programmes,etc...

I have since wrote and enquire if I still need to pay the $$ if i remove the articles immediately. WAiting for their reply....

On sidetrack, one of our local U kenna big time from similar incident. Not just the papers are doing it. Since last year, one of the maps company started issuing letters and a lot of schools and corporations kenna too."

I have now a few questions on my mind regarding this issue:

1) If we're not allowed to place articles (scanned, quoted, referenced) which reported about us, how about the countless businesses out there who does? To name some examples : restaurants like NYDC, who places copies of newspaper articles framed in their premises; cinema ads which quoted critics; insurance firms who uses articles from newspapers to reflect economic data etc ... Is "Ass Tee" planning to go after them too?

2) Why did a reporter (I shall not place names yet) from Today's newspaper (mediacorp), tell me that they do not pursue such incidents as long as they are properly referenced, but "Ass Tee" is doing such?

3) If "Ass-Tee" is on a crackdown hunt right now, why is it not announced or warned?

*Update* 30 August 2005
Got news back from my friend. After trying to reach them twice by email over a week, "Ass Tee" finally responded. They said that as an act of goodwill, if they would pay for the articles, "Ass Tee" will waive the $640 investigative charges. Also, if they pay for the articles, they will get to use it on their site for ... 1 WHOLE YEAR!! WOW! ... how generous *cough* cough* ... Ok, now to be fair to "Ass Tee", they do have a right to do what they are doing. But in my own humble opinion, they are just being an absolute Ass in the way they are handling it. Firstly, it is prevalent (lemme re-emphasize that with a capital "Pee"), repeat PREVALENT, that companies, restaurant etc uses newspaper clipping, articles etc in their course of business. Examples like insurance agents showing you their portfolio of "newspaper industry reports", and restaurants like NYDC with clippings framed up in their restaurants for "publicity". If these actions are infringing in the copyright act, then by all means, for god sake, send out a freaking WARNING!! You get warning on piracy everywhere, cos it is prevalent. If this act of clipping newspaper to put on a company website is illegal, freaking warn us about it!! Why am I so bothered by this again? I run a freaking restaurant, and after i heard about this incident, I removed all the "references" to articles which wrote about us for fear of offending the "Almighty Ass Tee" from my website! Please .. if "AssTee" are on a crackdown, they should let businesses know what is illegal before slapping a fine!!

For people who runs businesses and have a website and you quote from newspaper articles or place clippings of articles that talk about you or your company, you have been warned!!

13 comments:

Yuhui said...

I wonder if "Ass Tee" has ever heard of the "fair use" clause in copyright law...

chrischoo said...

This is interesting. I was similarly pursued by a local newspaper on the same matter. I took down all reports and references to the newspaper from the website. I am not sure if they have changed their approach to one that levies a "fine" on companies infringing on their copyright, but since I was faced with a different scenario I don't believe your friend 100%.

blinki_dadi said...

Bah!!! We should be sueing them for insulting our intelligence with their poorly written propaganda filth.

sesame said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sesame said...

Many years ago when I was working in a local company, I faced this infringement issue with the said paper too. We had unknowingly printed many of their articles in our own publications which got to their attention. They wanted us to pay quite a large sum of money but everything was eventually settled amicably and we did not pay a single cent. To think about it, they were quite nice then.

So it surprises me that your friend's company has been sued, without prior warning? If it's really true, they do sound pretty desperate.

sesame said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Yee-Wei Chai said...

My friend does not own the company. She works there. But anyhow's I am waiting for her to gimme somemore updates about this. In the meantime, I am removing all the articles that was written by other publications from my own restaurant's website. Don't wanna get shit man ... From what I had understand from the "Fair Dealings" Clause under the copyright act, we have no rights to showcase those articles even if they write about us.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. well... lets just say no warning letter was given prior to that instead a registered letter titled Reproduction of Published Articles came in the mail.

In it, it printed out the entire company website + cited the articles were reproduced. It also included charges for purchasing the articles and cost of their field work investigation of S$640.
It also include the costing of their licencing programmes,etc...

I have since wrote and enquire if I still need to pay the $$ if i remove the articles immediately. WAiting for their reply....

On sidetrack, one of our local U kenna big time from similar incident. Not just the papers are doing it. Since last year, one of the maps company started issuing letters and a lot of schools and corporations kenna too.

chrischoo said...

Probably so. I'm interested in seeing how things develop for this case. It'll give me a clear signal as to how to approach reproducing (if I should at all!) such articles in future for commercial purposes.

I've not seen these people hammer blogs for quoting stuff from their publications though, but I was quite taken aback by their approach nonetheless.

Also, considering that I have their price list, I have to say that their fees are exhorbitant.

Boringest :| said...

maybe the press should educate us more about the press themselves =P

Anonymous said...

hey hey, post it on Mr Brown's blog..warn the rest.. they very fond of quoting and scanning the papers and share with the readers... :P they just quoted the papers on mentioning there project "ONE MINUTE SINGAPORE"
http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2005/08/one_singapore_m_12.html.

carol

sesame said...

So they're taking a harder stance this time. Maybe inspired by that directory company. One company whom I worked with recently had to cough out $8k for having put up a map on their website. So it's pretty lucrative. If this is their objective, then there's no point issuing warning letters so that they can catch many "culprits" unaware. I wonder which department is in charge. Haven't they considered the bad publicity for themselves?

This reminds me about the handset regulation by the traffic police. The regulation was there for a while but never highlighted, not until some people circulated emails about it. They eventually came forth to clarify. So perhaps we should give this story to the competitor paper to report.

jay paul said...

Very informative post. Keep up the good work. I would really look forward to your other posts

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