Palin and HarperCollins v. Gawker

I don’t like Sarah Palin. I come from small towns and I recognize her as the kind of person whose radar you’d just want to stay off of. That being said, it seems like there’s this effort to… I don’t know… we need a word for this… but cause a kind of wave of sentiment against her that makes whatever happens to her okay. Do you know what I mean?

And I kind of get the impetus behind it, even, like if we make it okay to say and do every terrible thing we can get away with, maybe folks who we know have actual dirt on the Palins will come forward and spill it!

But I don’t like it.

Anyway, so Gawker posted pages from Palin’s book and Palin tweeted something like “Isn’t that illegal?” and everyone laughed. I even saw one tweet that was retweeted that said this was why she should never be allowed to be president, as if she’s just so stupid that she doesn’t realize posting pages of one’s book without permission on a website is okay.

But it is illegal.

She’s not wrong.

See, this is the thing I think people don’t get about Palin–yes, she’s pseudo-folksy in an annoying way that is obviously an affectation, yes, she is completely uninterested in the world in ways I find appalling, and yes, the idea of her being president scares the shit out of me.

But she is NOT stupid. And there are a lot of people who have mistaken her incuriousity for stupidity.

And there are a lot of people who think that, because we don’t like her, whatever we try to do to her is okay.

But just taking pages out of her book and posting them on your website, as Gawker has done? I have no idea how they thought this was going to pass some fair-use smell test. They were using the passages for commercial purposes–to draw eyes to their site and thus their ads. They had plucked out what they thought would be juicy parts of interest to people who now won’t bother to buy the book–thus hurting the potential market. They didn’t provide any real comment on the page after page they posted, so it doesn’t constitute “illustration or clarification of the author’s observations” and they didn’t summarize “an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report.”

I’m not a copyright attorney, but I play “How can we do what we need to do without infringing on others’ copyrights?” at work all the time and I swim in the “non-commercial” end of the pool, where we take a little firmer stand on fair use than other parts of the publishing world and this seems ludicrous to me.

I can’t imagine how it seemed even remotely plausible to someone in a commercial venture.

And even if they thought they could pull a fast one on poor old “stupid” Sarah Palin, I have no idea how they thought they were going not have to face HarperCollins in the court room.

5 thoughts on “Palin and HarperCollins v. Gawker

  1. Yeah, pulling whole pages is way over the top here and Gawker will probably be sued for that. I mean, come on, if you want to pillory the woman, pull a paragraph or two, base your article on that, and let it go. Personally, I don’t like Sarah Palin or what she stands for, and I wouldn’t buy her book whether I read one paragraph of it on a web site or 10 pages of it on the same website, but that’s just me. I have better places/things on which to spend my time than reading a book by a person whom I don’t like.

  2. I don’t think Gawker views Palin as stupid, not even a little bit. She’s very smart. Her problem is that she’s lazy. I also don’t think that Gawker would have published the book excerpts without consulting their (now very experienced) legal team, who figured it was worth the risk. Because at the end of the day, the situation only ends up benefiting both Gawker AND Palin, and all the players here know it. Palin isn’t a martyr for writers; above all else, she hates anyone who can make money off her name and image without a piece of the pie coming her way. She’s a brand, and she behaves as such. Sticking up for her as a writer is needlessly fair-minded, in my view.

  3. In a semi-related side note….. Palin is actually going to be signing books at Costco in Franklin soon. We were shopping there yesterday and they have quite a list of rules posted.

  4. I was one of those who retweeted David Frum’s comments regarding this. Generally speaking, if I’m making a quick judgment on something and I have to choose between Frum and Palin, I’m going with the former.

    But after discovering that 1) it was Gawker and 2) that these were complete pages I regretted it–unfortunately I discovered too long after I had RTed Frum’s comments.

    As ar as I know, Frum has not retracted. He should.

  5. This is one of the things I despise about rank partisanship. It turns otherwise thinking adults into drooling mobs of bullies.

    I get that people don’t like Sarah Palin. I don’t like her at all. She is everything I dislike about the expectations and norms for conservative women.

    But to countenance cruelty toward her because I don’t like her? It’s the same thing I see on the right wing where people I (used to) respect trade racist and scatalogical emails about Barack Obama.

    Any time you feel the urge to set aside your integrity to join in the scrum of attack against a popularly-loathed person, I think it’s time for self examination.

Comments are closed.