Friday, June 12, 2009

Will this amount to violation of rights?

I feel I am becoming irritatingly inquisitive about data/information these days. It’s probably the frequent bombardment of sensitive data handling tips and insights which have lead to these adverse affects. I got into the office bus this morning and occupied my favorite aisle seat. My neighbor was engrossed in the morning newspaper and I happened to read the headlines as I occupied my seat. It was not like I made a conscious attempt to read; the bold lines just flew through my eyes. This made me think.

Is reading a newspaper not bought by me, an act of violation of the publisher’s or the new owner’s right?

Though it might not be like an illegal copy/download of songs and videos; it might still amount to use of printed information in part or whole without the prior consent of the author or the publishers as you are not paying for it. In short it might be some form of piracy, and piracy hurts. You might argue that the contents of a newspaper are actually generic and there cannot be any copyright on news; the fact that newspapers also carry editorials and articles will force a rethink. The authors or owners in this case will be the newspaper publication group who stand to lose. Given the short life span of a daily newspaper, every unsold copy is a loss (let’s discount the salvage value of paper from the scope of this blog). Another point is that, it’s mostly the headlines and pictures that most go through, unless the news bit is of interest. Considering that the headlines and pictures are more prominent and visible from a distance, there is little need for an extra effort to gather them. Also, there are people who are only interested in the sports or in the crime beat section, who would satisfy themselves with a quick peep and will not bother to buy a newspaper. So I think, reading a newspaper not bought by me, might actually be a violation of either the publishers or the new owners (person who bought the newspaper) right.

But again, a newspaper is actually available on the public domain. Until an author or a company is awarded the rights on their asset, the asset on a public domain can be used by anybody. Maybe it is the design and layout of the newspaper which the company will hold rights on and not the actual content. If at all some proprietary material is published, the owners will have to take enough precautions by providing a legal box or a copyright symbol or something. They cannot put words highlighted in bold and display it in public and expect nobody other than the buyer to read it. If they are doing that, it might be really to attract customers because a strong customer base will in turn help them augment their revenues by attracting advertisers. The buyer of the newspaper on his part has to keep it out of public view or should take precautions to make sure that no one else reads the newspaper he has bought. He cannot expect privacy while displaying/reading it in public. So maybe reading a newspaper not bought by me, might not be a violation of either the publishers or the new owners (person who bought the newspaper) right.

Even though I could think of an “against” argument for every “for” argument, I am still not very convinced. Probably it’s my lack of knowledge on information security, which is to be blamed.

~Narendra V Joshi

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