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.