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For week ended April 09, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 04Apr00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Kirby, Tribune Embarrassed Over Printing Email Message
Kent Larsen 3Apr00 N2

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Salt Lake Tribune humor columnist Robert Kirby was embarrassed Sunday morning to discover that the author of a humorous e-mail message he had reprinted in his column Saturday hadn't meant for it to be printed in the newspaper. Kirby had received the message, titled "Important Facts: New LDS Conference Center," from at least a dozen readers who thought it was funny. The message was a list of 'facts' about the LDS Church's new Conference Center which it said were not true.

However, the mistake is not entirely Kirby's fault. He says that he received the message at least a dozen times, and none of the copies he had included the author's name or any indication of who wrote it. Since his email address is included at the bottom of every column he writes, Kirby receives many email messages, and says he has included material from email messages before, attributing the material to its author when available.

But this time the author objected, because she hadn't expected the message to be used in a print publication. Cherie Woodworth, the author, is known to many on the Internet for her satires, including the "Farmer in the Dell" satire, a convincing-sounding news story about a Brigham City, Utah kindergarten becoming embroiled in fears over homosexuality merely for allowing girls to take the part of the 'farmer' in the nursery game because the class didn't have as many girls as boys. The satire was picked up by some news organizations around the U.S. and reported as news.

Tribune editor Jay Shelledy told Mormon News that Kirby is very embarrassed by the situation. "He has been the victim of this himself. It was a good wake-up call for him." Like many newspaper columnists, including the more-well-known Dave Barry, Kirby's work has been forwarded through email without attribution, and even posted to websites without permission, clearly in violation of the copyright law. The mistake simply highlights the errors many people make in forwarding email messages.

Unfortunately, many people on the Internet assume everything they find there is free for the taking. Adding to the confusion, many newspapers, including the Salt Lake Tribune, include a button on each page inviting the reader to forward the page to a friend. But, not everyone understands the common-sense limitations on this. Shelledy says this doesn't mean forward the page to hundreds of people, or to an email list. Instead, he suggests sending the URL. And, he adds, "if you forward them, you should forward them completely," including information about where you got the message and who wrote it.

New York intellectual property lawyer Patrick Perkins agrees, "Its probably good form to leave identifying information on the email you forward." He points out that, should it come to a court case, a person that removes identifying information could be liable for contributing to violating the copyright. Unfortunately, many people don't even realize they are doing something wrong.

Meanwhile, Shelledy says that the Tribune is doing everything it can to make it up to Woodworth. Kirby's column tomorrow will include an explanation that the material came from Woodworth and Shelledy says that the Tribune will contact Woodworth and offer her its normal freelance article fee for her work. The article will also be pulled from the Tribune's website and database, unless the Tribune decides to ask for and obtains permission to keep it there.


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