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Keeping a civil tongue in our head

Mon, Dec 17, 2007

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Greetings, Every Dot Connects readers; I’m Sheila and I’m going to be working with Connie Reece, Mike Chapman and all the Reece & Company folks, doing advocacy and training with organizations and individuals who want to connect using social media/networking tools.

I’m a writer, so Connie very kindly handed me some keys to this blog and invited me to write about social media topics.

Here’s the first item at bat: keeping a civil tongue in our head, even when it’s difficult.

Do you have a civil tongue in your head? (courtesy LittleGoldWoman at flickr’s Creative Commons.)

Now, I do have two kids and I’ve been a teacher, so it’s easy for me to fall into my schoolmarm tone and wag fingers.  I try to resist, I assure you!

Today, however, I’ve been following a little bloggy/Twittery dust-up that illustrates why we really must think before we write or tweet or shoot video online, or we may undercut the power of our argument.

Quick summary:  A tech columnist for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, Mathew Ingram, writes about photographer Lane Hartwell, who was angry about one of her images being used in a YouTube video without credit back to her.

Hartwell blogs that she tried to go low-key, was ignored, and then got lawyers involved.

Ingram blogs that she’s wrongly interpreting copyright and fair use law.

OK, pretty civil so far.

Then we go to Ingram’s post and start reading the comments, including many from a person named Shelley, who strongly supports Lane Hartwell.  Lots of back and forth, but the bloggy bunker-buster was this comment exchange between TechCrunch co-editor Michael Arrington and Ingram:

Arrington:  “Shelley, Lane’s attorney is abusing the DMCA for his/her own goals. And copyright has nothing to do with ‘giving credit.’ It has to do with being forced to license work unless it falls under fair use, which this clearly does. Mathew is right, you are wrong. But since Lane is a woman, it really doesn’t matter what she did as far as you are concerned. She’s a woman, so she’s right.”

(two comments from Shelley and Ingram, and then….)

Ingram back to Arrington:  “Thanks for the support, Mike — but let’s not bring Lane being a woman into the discussion because a) I don’t think it’s relevant, and b)
Shelley hasn’t brought it up. I’d like to keep this focused on the copyright issue.”

Arrington:  “actually, Mathew, I’ll do whatever the fuck I feel like, and you can decide to censor comments or not. Shelley is and always has been a fascist around these issues. If you’re on her team (poliically) (sic) she’ll support you to the death. Not on her team and she’ll find a way to take you out at the knees. People ignore her rather than call her on it.”

Ingram:  “So if you have a beef with Shelley, why use my comments — on a completely unrelated topic — to take it up with her? I don’t see why my blog and anyone reading it has to be dragged into whatever past issues you and Shelley have. I’m not going to censor your comment, but I fail to see why you felt it necessary to bring sexism into it when Shelley never even mentioned anything about that aspect of it.”

Arrington: “oh please. sucking up to Shelley will get you nowhere.”

Well.

For the rest of the day, I watched assorted hullabaloo about this on blogs and Twitter.  Eric Rice did a Seesmic video about community response to sexism and such online behavior by Arrington, then Arrington responded with a frustrated tweet and a blog post, then Dave Winer complained about Eric Rice and it was all very interesting.

Except it was pathetic.  Time for some Grown-Up Pills.  Take two and call me when you’re over yourself.

Hey, newsflash, you don’t drop the F-bomb and call someone a fascist, then a few hours later (when the community is all good and riled up) act like everyone is out to get you and it’s so unfair.

You think before you speak or write.  You enter into civil discourse and reasonably measured disagreement, both online and off.  You do not allow the marvelous screen-lit anonymity of the computer to turn you into a passive-aggressive pop-off.  If you do lose your temper and screw up, you step up and apologize, then we all move on.

There’s no question that fair use and copyright issues are indeed difficult, with valid points on either side….so let’s hear them, please, intelligently and reasonably stated.

Update 18 Dec 07:  The LawGeek blog has a well-written, cogent discussion of copyright and fair use, with interesting questions in the comments.  (Hat tip to Dwight Silverman at TechBlog.)

Technorati tags: social media, blogging, photo copyright, Lane Hartwell, Michael Arrington, Mathew Ingram

This post was written by:

Sheila Scarborough - who has written 31 posts on Every Dot Connects.

I'm a writer and speaker specializing in tourism,travel and social media. Co-founder of Tourism Currents.

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4 Comments For This Post

  1. kellyd Says:

    Bravo! Well said.

  2. RyanB Says:

    Arrington is a pig. I think he might be sexist. I had a run-in with him in Boston and… well… I think my blog post and the photo I posted say it all.
    http://ryanbarrett.typepad.com/cheapthrills/2007/11/michael-arringt.html

  3. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    ** kellyd Thanks for stopping by.

    ** RyanB I appreciate the frustration in your post, but I’m not sure that calling the guy “a pig” or “might be sexist” is quite what I meant by civil discourse. :)

  4. RyanB Says:

    ;) As a response to Arrington’s remarks, I’d say my comment is quite civil.

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