The Rest Of The Story

Back in the day, there was a radio broadcaster named Paul Harvey.

He was famous for the line “now you know the rest of the story.” So, today’s blog is in Mr. Harvey’s honor. I posted a piece on Wednesday about how a widow was using copyright law to force the takedown of her husband’s suicide note, which was posted on some blogs and other online portals. So here is a letter from the lawyer for one of the blogs – “AVoiceForMen” – contesting the widow’s claim.

I won’t repeat the letter here, but there are some interesting facts that I didn’t know when I wrote my piece Wednesday. Among these notable factual nuggets – the husband who later killed himself posted the suicide note. And the note was pretty critical of the wife. Are those facts relevant? Well, the fact that the note was not flattering of the wife raises some questions about her motivation. But while that’s interesting, it’s not really dispositive. 

More interesting is the fact that the husband posted the note online. That raises the question whether the republication constitutes “fair use.” It is at least mildly newsworthy that a person would post a suicide note online as one of his last acts on this earth. So if a blog or some other outlet wants to report on that story, it may be fair use to republish the note. 

The husband’s decision to post the note, at least according to the blog’s lawyers, may constitute an implied license to republish it. 

And the potential problem for the widow is that she may be liable under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for misuse of a takedown notice. The lawyers apparently mean business on this point, as their letter says, “We can assure you that if your client insists upon pressing forward with her attempts to censor this material, my client will file a counterclaim under 17 U.S.C. § 512(f).

There is NOTHING worse than picking a legal fight and discovering that the other side has a claim against you. The point being that while an aggrieved party may have a copyright claim, know that if it’s at all shaky, the target of the claim may have grounds for firing back.

Now you know the rest of the story.  Good day.