Liberals against copyrights

Free love. Free health care. Free Mumia. Everything should be free, man.

Free newspaper columns, too. The man is trying to keep you down and dumb if he doesn't let you read everything for free. That's the premise behind Common Dreams, a liberal content-stealing site that republishes columns without compensating the newspaper or the author. They hide behind a twisted and exceedingly broad interpretation of the "Fair Use" exemption in copyright law.

The problem? When people rip off their columns, newspapers are not generating ad revenue from their own web sites. That makes it hard to pay the people who write the columns in the first place. Liberal San Francisco Chronicle columnist Harley Sorensen was terminated in 2005, and his editor blamed the theft of his columns by sites like Common Dreams.

Now the same thing is happening to the New York Times. Its TimesSelect program hides the opinions of its columnists behind a subscription-only wall. While this obviously greatly limits the reach and influence of the columnists, it does raise a little bit of revenue for the Times (yes, a few people actually pay to read that stuff). But that won't work if sites like this republish NY Times columns in their entirety. Why pay for Times Select when you can just do an online search for your columnist?

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Happy Super Tuesday!