Editor’s Note: Blocked Sites and Fair Use

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

There was a problem that occured on Linux Today this afternoon
that I feel obliged to explain.

Early this morning, I posted a story from the Information Week
Web site entitled, “Massachusetts Builds Open-Source Public
Trough.” The link to the story was contributed by long-time
contributor Jason Greenwood. I surfed to the article, read it, and
deemed it worthy for excerpting and linking from our site. I
constructed the story and posted it, timing it to run at 1730 GMT
(1230 EST).

What I did not know, and did not learn until late this
afternoon, was that the publisher of Information Week, CMP Media
LLC (a division of United Business Media plc), had apparently
decided to block incoming links from Linux Today. I did not realize
this because when I linked to the story directly from my system in
Indianapolis, there was no block. (Nor, apparently, did Mr.
Greenwood get blocked.)

Clearly, this is a block designed specifically for referring
sites such as Linux Today. (Though, curiously, a link on NewsForge
to the same story that has the exact same excerpt is currently
allowed to go through unimpeded.)

Complicating matters today was the fact that I took some time
off this afternoon for personal business and was not aware of the
problem until my return to the home office at 2200 GMT (1700 EST).
Upon learning of the situation, I immediately pulled the story down
from the site, as I felt I should do until this situation is

The crux of the message on CMP’s blocking page reads:
“Unfortunately, we cannot satisfy this particular request because
it comes from a source that is not authorized to redistribute our

Linux Today’s editorial staff has long maintained a very strict
policy about excerpting other sites’ material. We always do so
under the guidelines of fair use, which essentially means we can
only show a small bit of an entire story. We must also cite the
originator of the story, the author, and provide a link to the

Fair use is one of the most important deciding factors in
choosing a story to run on Linux Today: if the original article is
too short, I will not post a link to it, for the simple reason that
any excerpt would be too much content.

Unfortunately, CMP seems to have taken the position that fair
use excerpts of their stories that send traffic to their site is no
longer acceptable to them. Because of the nature of their block,
even if we were to post just the link, our readers would be
blocked. A URL, it has been clarified in legal decisions, is a
fact, like a street address, that can be published freely by any
news organization.

No one at Linux Today or Jupitermedia, our parent company, has
been contacted by CMP regarding this decision. I sincerely hope
that discussions can be initiated with them, so that we can link to
their sites from time to time.

Until this matter is resolved, Linux Today will honor CMP’s
implied request and no longer link to any content on their sites. I
will also begin testing all links from the Linux Today servers so
that this inconvenience does not occur again. Readers should note
that all past stories linking to CMP sites are likely to be blocked
as well. I will try to keep referencing links to past CMP articles
out of the “Related Stories” sections of future articles.

I am personally saddened by this move, as I feel it only brings
harm to CMP, not Linux Today. Given the myriad of Linux news
content available on the Internet, many news stories appearing on
CMP sites are duplicated by other publishers’ sites, including some
of our own JupiterWeb sites. So, the traffic that once went to CMP
sites from us will now go somewhere else.

It also harms you, the reader, as you are deprived of one more
news and information source. While many news stories overlap, there
are always unique slants and factoids that one reporter might have
over another.

I will keep you posted as the situation moves forward.

Update: As I was making one last pass
through the ‘Net before retiring Friday evening, I located a new
source for the exact same story mentioned here. In order to provide
complete coverage to LT readers, I have re-posted the story. I
still intend to inquire about CMP’s new policy at the start of next
week. -BKP

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