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It's Celeste's Turn column: A newspaper is a business

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

Photo of Celeste Edenloff
Celeste Edenloff

Did you know that copying and pasting or screenshotting and posting an entire story from the Echo Press website violates federal copyright laws ?

About six months ago, a group I was following on Facebook started copying and pasting whole articles on their page. They would also share a link to the story, but what was the point, the whole story was there for everyone to see.

When I saw this, I notified our publisher who in turn contacted the lawyer for the Minnesota Newspaper Association . We wanted to know if there was anything that could be done.

According to Mark Anfinson, the MNA lawyer, what the group was doing clearly violated federal copyright laws. He noted that such brazen copyright infringement is usually caused by a lack of basic copyright principles .

He told us the best bet would be to notify the group that what they were doing was against the law and insist they stop. Anfinson added that most of the time, a friendly message works and the person or group would no longer violate copyright laws.

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But he was also willing to contact them on our behalf if the behavior continued.

I contacted the owner of the group and thanked her for providing the link to our website, but also told her that she was violating copyright laws by copying and pasting entire articles. I asked that she stop. The woman messaged me back and said going forward she would comply, but then also added she was not dealing with “drama” and promptly banned me from the group.

This week, that group did it again. But it wasn’t the owner this time, it was another member of the group.

So, how do I know this if I was banned from the group? As my mom used to say when she found things out, “A little birdie told me.”

Just like last time, I sent a message letting the person know they had violated copyright laws. We had a great exchange and she said she wasn’t aware and apologized.

I told her, “We know people are going to do it and we try to contact them when they do. Just like any business, our product is not free. Although most people think it is.”

And that brings me to my point – the newspaper is an actual, real business that offers its product for a fee. We are not a non-profit. We are not funded by the government. We do not get subsidies. We are a business. We have products we sell.

I have seen so many comments about why we post articles on Facebook but yet people have to pay to read them.

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And what I want to know is if that same person asks the owner of a clothing store the same thing. Do they want their products for free, too, because of a post they saw on Facebook?

So many businesses post about their products on Facebook. They showcase what they have in stock, what they have to offer, what specials they are running, etc.

Restaurant owners post new menu items. Does this mean because they posted about it the menu item should be free?

Clothing store owners showcase the latest styles in their posts. Does this mean that people should just walk into the store and walk out with the items without paying for them?

Breweries post about new beers they have on tap. Does this mean people should just be able to go and fill their frosty mugs for free?

Why do people think newspapers should give their product away for free? I truly do not understand this concept. I never have. Growing up, my parents always paid for their newspaper subscription. They never got it for free.

It was a product they purchased from the local newspaper, which was, and still is, a business.

So I am asking all of you, please don’t copy and paste our articles. Please don’t take our product without paying for it. Become a subscriber. Pay for our product, just like you would your groceries, clothing items, meals at restaurants, your favorite beer at either the liquor store or brewery, your jewelry, stamps at the post office, haircuts, etc.

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You wouldn’t steal a donut from a bakery. Please don’t steal a story from the newspaper.

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Related Topics: ECHO PRESSIT'S OUR TURN
Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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