Friday, 6 February 2009

MMR and The Left Side of ©

Copyright is a thorny issue in today's world - and today the blogosphere is alight with the story of Ben Goldacre, MD threatened with legal action for stealing a large audio excerpt from a radio broadcasts where presenter and one-time actress, Jeni Barnett laid into the MMR debate and got it, er, wrong.

Dr. Goldacre described it (here) as:
"...some of the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves."
Which he is completely entitled to to - and you know what I agree with him - but he made a grave (if rather naive) error in posting the entire audio to his blog and that landed him in deeeeep, deep shit as he was shortly served with a take down notice from lawyers representing LBC.

Unfortunately, and in spite poor Ben's bleating and messages of support from many, including yours truly, LBC were entirely within their rights to order a take-down. Not that it's helped their cause much - the Internet is well-known as a den of disregarded copyright and it's now popping up all over the place: including Wikileaks.

There's a good piece on Fair Use laws here (although it's US-based and the laws vary from country to country and judge to judge).

Ben admits that:
"...I posted the relevant segment about MMR from her show, 44 minutes..."
Uh oh.

44 minutes from 180 amounts to 24% of the entire broadcast - and worse - 100% of the arguments that were being discussed and in both cases, Fair Use (from my experience) does not apply.

You can't take a huge chunk from something and then claim Fair Use - it's simply not allowed; you can't even take a small section, say even a fraction of percent if that section represents (can be shown to represent) the heart of the work.

You'll notice the elipses (...) in these quote to suggest one continuations. This is a way of pulling a small section from a piece of copyrighted material (Ben's writings are similarly copyright) while not falling foul of Fair Use laws.

Like Ben, I get enormously pissed when (even well-meaning) Celebs get involved in issues that they know less than fuck all about and then spread a liberal amount of bullshit: which people then believe.

Christine Maggiore was an AIDS denier. She is now dead. Killed by an HIV-related illness.

The ludicrous MMR story, originated by Dr Andrew Wakefield (and others now distanced from the case) has rattled on and on and on: yet there simply isn't any evidence for the assertion it causes autism or IBS.

Not, so says Barnett, "Injecting tiny babies with substances that may compromise their immune system needs to be looked at not shouted down."

This might amaze you Jeni, but we've been doing precisely that for decades! Of course, you're a radio presenter: not a scientist, not a doctor and not qualified to talk about medicine.

By way of coincidence, the BBC reports that measles cases are UP again - 27% increase from 2007 to 2008... this is directly related to the sort of bullshit that Jeni and her ilk in the media are so good at spreading.

I don't think that we need a change in the copyright law, but this does raise an issue with free speech laws - and the responsibility that is required from broadcasters.

Bizarrely, in a world where the BBC has bent over backwards to apologise for allowing the unedited version of Batman star, Christian Bale swearing more than I do on air; and the Pope is embarrassed because one of his Bishops is a Holocaust denier (a criminal offence in some countries), we allow dangerous ignorance of this type openly onto the airways.


It matters because measles blinds; measles deafens; measles kills children.

Jeni suggests we need an open debate: I'd agree that we need to discuss why she has not been sacked and this sort of dangerous advice is allowed on the air.

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