Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The MacIver Institute: Where "Free Market" Means Theft!

How's that for a catchy slogan?

Fred Dooley, the Mac's in-house blogger, has a post on the Institute's official web page that is nothing short of an unapologetic wholesale rip-off of an article that ran in the Badger Herald. Dooley links to the original piece, but then proceeds to post the entire BH article in the text below. All of it. Word for word. Dooley credits the author, but then essentially steals the traffic that would have otherwise gone to the BH by posting the entire article on the MacIver site.

That's a big time publishing faux pas that no serious professional blog would dare commit. It's considered theft. Posting a few paragraphs and including a link is general considered proper etiquette, but the entire article is not kosher. (Dooley is clearly familiar with this practice, demonstrating it right here.) Even reprinting extended excepts from an piece is allowed so long as there is borderline Talmudic commentary to accompany it. That's not happening here. If I were Alicia Yager or her editors, I'd be pissed.

If I were in charge of the Mac, I'd be pissed too. This isn't an isolated incident (see here, here, and here; here's an instance where Dooley doesn't even link to the original article despite copying it word for word on the MacIver's site). In each instance, Dooley essentially steals another author's content and doesn't even pretend to try to add any commentary of his own. And it's not like Dooley is siphoning the works of bloggers who are using the Creative Commons licenses -- the instances cited above not only appeared online, but also in print, which usually involves a copyright.

It's theft, unspeakably lazy blogging and the calling card of a hack.

Now, were this on Dooley's personal site these words would have never been written, but since this is on the official blog of an institution that purports to be a "think tank," I expect a little -- even just the token appearance of -- intellectual honesty. If the Mac can't even abide by the most basic principles of the "fair use" of intellectual property, how does it expect to have any legitimacy promoting it's agenda? Do we have to call into question how the institute gathered the data for any of the polls it released shortly after opening?

There's always been the possibility that the Mac was nothing other than a grazing field for aging Republican operatives to go out to stud, and if that's their thing, so be it. But if Dooley is going to be stealing other authors' content under the MacIver Institute's imprimatur, that's another story altogether, because unlike some hoser with a Blogspot account (see me, for example), the Mac aspires to have credibility in the public dialog. If it's going to be a part of that conversation, it will need to abide by the same rules that other journalists and academics have agreed to.

So here's my suggestion: the MacIver Institute should pay for the content that they have previously "appropriated" from other publications and issue a public apology. They should also adopt a style guide and adhere to it on their blog and any other publications issued by the Mac. This is not a small issue for a "think tank" that supposedly advocates from "free market" economic principles, one of which is presumably the sanctity of "private property." Intellectual property is private property -- a "think tank" above all places should know that -- and until the Mac recognizes that, its only function will appear to be theft.

MORE: Dooley did it again later today: the full text of another editorial copied and pasted onto the MacIver site, this time without a link to the original article. Again, coming from an institution that is supposed to be producing ideas, this is theft.

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