What started as a testcase for ‘quoting’ music without breaking the law (making use of Belgium’s citing right) and made for some amusing exchanges of condescending legalese, has become awkward since the author has voluntarily turned into a stool pigeon.

Some background: on Feb 13 the Skynetblogger Librarian had put a link on his blog that pointed to a RealAudio recording of “One-Trick Pony” by Nelly Furtado. When the IFPI, represented by its lawyer Olivier Maeterlinck, asked him on Feb 21 to remove this link (a classic ‘cease and desist’, that Mr Maeterlinck probably sends dozens of every week), the blogger reacted by putting up a link to a excerpt of the song (1:29 of the total 4:47) that he hosted on his own website. He then put forward that because of the right to cite (“citaatrecht” in Dutch) he should be allowed to do this. The right to cite an original work without explicit permission of the author is regularly used in written communication, but is restricted to the following purposes: critic, polemic, education or scientific efforts (“kritiek, polemiek of onderwijs, of in het kader van wetenschappelijke werkzaamheden”). It made for an interesting test case, which was noticed by other bloggers like LVB. IFPI did not seem to object to the excerpt (but started questioning the right to link to the song’s lyrics). The conversation took the form of an exchange of legal statements with long slightly abusive sentences, lots of unnecessary adjectives and the occasional disclaimer. The stuff they teach lawyers at university, in other words.

But then on Feb 26, Librarian published a post with a completely different story: he had removed all links to other bloggers from his site because they might contain ‘illegal’ (i.e. copyrighted) images or other content. Had he stopped at that, it would be nothing but overly cautious. But he also asked bloggers who wanted their link restored, to contact him and ensure him that all content on their blog was OK. Moreover, he said that whoever did not reply within 7 days was automatically suspect of providing illegal content, and if the blog was hosted by skynetblogs.be (probably the largest Belgian blog provider) he would report it to Skynet as an inadmissible blog (ongeoorloofde blog). This is not only pretentious (as if every blogger would read Librarian’s blog and react), but also equivalent with a social suicide.

I have no idea what his motivation is. It could be fear (for getting sued as a testcase) or irony (‘see, this is what this legislation would lead to’). It is really rather silly. If you want to know what the limits are of what you can do on a blog with copyrighted material, check with SABAM. It is responsible for protecting the rights of the authors and has published its prices: the price for putting music on-line: 13,07 euro per month for 15 minutes of audio, to be paid by the party responsible for hosting the actual files. SABAM has no prices for “linking to other people’s audio”.

I wonder, in the days of pirate radio stations, was it illegal to refer to their names and frequencies?