Yahoo! Alerts: Another Good Source for Blog Post Topics

I've been using Yahoo! Alerts for a couple of months now, and I'm very happy with the service. 

Last November, I wrote about Google Alerts, Social Mention, etc. and they are also nice.  However, I am particularly happy with how Yahoo!Alerts is popping up with information for me.

Now, admittedly I am only using one aspect of Yahoo! Alerts: their News Alerts, where I choose keywords and then receive summaries in email of top news stories that correspond to those keywords.  For example, I have Yahoo! Alerts set up for "copyright infringement" and "blogging."

However, the service offers a lot of options, and you may find other things more to your liking.  Check it out. 

Interestingly, once I have notice of the news story or blog post via Yahoo! Alerts, I still tend to pop over into Google to investigate what's up and find more information for what I'm writing.


Using Media Content on Your Blog or Web Site: First, Just Ask Permission.

You want to use content from a news article or television station's web site in your blog post - this could cover many things.  For lawyers, news coverage about big victories in the courtroom usually means a desire to place that coverage on their bio page at the law firm's web site.  The 21st Century's version of an Ego Wall.

However, as I've discussed here before on more than one occasion, if a lawyer pulls that story or that video and puts it on the firm's website willy-nilly, then copyright infringement may occur.  Those media stories (including photos and videos and audio interviews) are all the copyrighted work of these media outlets and should be respected.

What to do?  First things first, just ask.  Call or email the media source (this is really easy if you have the contact information of the reporter who just did your interview) and ask permission.  Alternatively, surf their site for words like "reprint" or "permission" and you will find things like this:

San Antonio Express News
Dallas Morning News
Houston Chronicle
The Associated Press.

Will you have to pay?  Maybe.  It's called a "licensing fee."  Balance that cost against dealing with a cease and desist letter (if you get one, Righthaven never bothered) or a claim for copyright infringement by the media's IP litigators. 


Citizen Journalists: Syrian Rami Al-Sayed Died in This Week While On the Job

Bloggers who publish news for their readers don't get the label of journalist these days - the best they can hope for is the label "citizen journalist," even when they die while covering a story with the depth, breath, and importance of anything covered by a traditional media source.

Lawyers Understand the Professional Frustration Felt by Traditional Journalists

As a lawyer, I understand the professional frustration: it's a complex reaction to technological advances that seem to make years of advanced education and professional experience unimportant and unnecessary. Lawyers compete with RocketLawyer, LegalZoom, and local streamlined legal processes in many jurisdictions.

That's a lot to bear even before considering outsourcing to India. Where's the unauthorized practice of law hatchet? What about the need to consider an individual's circumstances, the personal expertise that the attorney brings to the table?

No matter. Times are changing and lawyers are having to deal with those changes.

Journalists are going to have to do this, too. Which brings me to this citizen journalist thing. 

Today's news brings with it the sad report that a blogger operating out of Syria named Rami Ahmad Al-Sayed, who posted videos and messages online to share with the world what was is happening right now in Syria, has died. (Check out his YouTube offerings here.)

Blogger Rami Ahmad Al-Sayed was 27 years old, and leaves behind a wife and tiny daughter. This young man risked his life in order to report (and yes, that is what he was doing) on the military assault that is happening right now in Homs, Syria.

He brought news to the world in the same way that those crusty, courageous journalists do that we recognize with pride here in America: those that risk their lives to get the story out as "war correspondents." 

 The story is this: Syria is killing thousands of people right now and Syria is blocking all outside communications as best it can. No internet, no cell phones, you get the idea.

Al-Sayed was brave and bold and because of him, we know some of what is going on in Syria today. That's reporting. That's journalism.

Still, read the news of his passing today and the best you'll see is coverage of his death and the label "citizen journalist" or "video blogger" ... and in one main stream media story, he gets the bottom couple of paragraphs in a story covering the death of a traditional journalist who also died this week.

God bless Rami Ahmad Al-Sayed for his work, condolences to his family. A journalist died this week trying to share truth - and that's the bottom line, folks.


Books on Your Blog or WebSite: PDF or eBook? Why You Should Choose PDFs.

There's lots of chatter right now about adding books (eBooks, booklets) to blogs - particularly law firm blogs.  Usually, this talk is accompanied with a discussion of coordinating those publications with an offer for the book at no charge in exchange for the reader signing up to a service like Aweber.

More and more law firms are doing this.  A nice book cover image appears in the sidebar; it's a free offer for in-depth information on an important topic like tips on avoiding foreclosure; tips on making end of life decisions; ways to limit risk in alternative investments, etc.  Click on the image and the reader usually has to provide an email address in order to get the freebie, and afterwards that email address may receive a series of follow-ups: more free information, etc.

Choosing to Build a Book for Your Blog or Web Site  

Along with the chatter about books on blogs comes lots of confusion and I've had several calls from clients and colleagues that are overwhelmed about the process (or options) once they start investigating this stuff.  Once they understand their state's bar regulations on the issue, and they've got a game plan on what they want to accomplish, then comes the practical decisions to be made.  How to get this done - it's not as easy as it may first appear. 

Offering a free book on your blog is not a bad idea -- it's a good idea -- but you need to know at the get-go that it isn't all that easy to get from start to finish.

Right now, self-publishing eBooks are trendy.  These are coded documents that can be read on specific devices (e-Readers) like Kindles, Nooks, Sony eReaders, as well as IPads, Kindle Fires, etc.

This is usually the first kind of document that the lawyer envisions.  Maybe the only one, because many aren't considering PDF formatted documents as something that can create snazzy books for their sidebar.   All this talk about self-publishing means many lawyers don't understand the different options open to them. 

PDF Books for Your Sidebar

For lots of lawyers and law firms, the formatted eBook alternative of using a .pdf document, formatted both for security and for a professional appearance, is the preferred option.  Surf around and you will find that PDF documents are appearing quite often in blog and site sidebars as the chosen format for that free book offering.

Why a PDF?  

1.  PDF books are easy to create: you can create your book using Microsoft Word or Open Office.  No need to learn fancy coding like you need for a self-published eBook for Kindles or IPads.  

2.  PDF books can be full-color with sophisticated graphic design.  This format allows a glossy, magazine-like product that self-published eBooks cannot provide now with their coding limitations.  Kindles and other eReaders don't like images very much, and they are hard to insert into the reader-approved format. 

3.  The PDF option gives you lots of number-play.  With a PDF book, you can include all sorts of graphs or tables or pie chart images that the Amazon/Smashwords/etc. coded eBook cannot include now.  Footnotes, no problem.  E books coded for Kindle or the IPad or the Nook are best left to words alone, black on white text, with hyperlinks.  No footnotes, please.  Check out various magazines, blogs, and other graphically-oriented publications on the nearest Kindle or Sony E-Reader and see what you find.  

4.  Most readers are familiar with the PDF format; additionally, these documents can be read on almost every device.  You can even upload a PDF document onto a Kindle, for example.  However, you cannot read a Kindle eBook on any device other than a Kindle eReader or a computer that has downloaded the free Kindle software onto its hard drive.  

What I Suggest You Consider Doing For Your First Publication

For law firm clients ready to place books on their blogs or web sites, I proposed that they review their blogs or newsletters to find a series of posts or a single theme that can serve as the springboard for a .pdf document.   

Next, prepare a Word (or Open Office) document with text that flows, pulling together those blog posts or newsletter articles into a cohesive document that will serve the reader well as a PDF book.  Make sure to include a table of contents and an "about the author" section.  

Work with a graphic designer if you choose to do so, or just use a Word template.  Get your Word document looking like a professional product, then convert it to a PDF document.  

Make sure that you have your security features in place (no cutting and pasting, limited sharing or printing, etc.) and you're done.  

Now you have a very nice offering, in a format that most recognize and can read on whatever screen they choose to use, that can be:

             a.  placed on the blog;
             b.  sent by email to whomever you choose; and
             c.  used in an email marketing campaign;


Google Public Alerts Debuts: Help in Emergencies

Just when you're getting used to those Google privacy debates, here comes another helpful effort by Google:  Google Public Alerts.

What Google has done is create a platform to share emergency news (public safety, big storms like earthquakes and hurricanes, etc.) over a big huge Google Map of the world.  The map flags the spot, information is provided in the margin with links, of course.

Go here to check it out.

Google plans on adding more as time goes on, of course.  Speaking for advocates against child abuse and child neglect, having Google Public Alerts of Amber Alerts in the future would be a good thing.  Presumably, Google will also be adding these emergency notifications to places like its Everything Search, maybe even gMail for the area affected. 

This new Google Alert system is specifically for emergency situations and, in fact, is being run by the "Google Crisis Response team."

They are asking for feedback, so feel free to provide them some.  I would think that attorneys might have lots of input here - as well as emergency personnel, etc. - on how Google can provide better and broader information for those in the midst of an emergency situation. 

To share a thought or comment, go to their "Feedback" tab at the lower right corner of the Public Alerts page.


U.S. Supreme Court Throws Public Domain Under the Bus: Copyrights Can Be Applied to Longstanding Public Domain Works Under Berne Convention

In the often-confusing area of copyright, there was one bright line: works that had entered the public domain.  Find an image or a quote within the public domain and you never got to the question of copyright:  are you infringing?  is your work fair use?  It was black and white, night and day: once a work entered the public domain, there were no copyrights to respect - the copyrights had evaporated, and the works were free for anyone to use at any time.  Sweet. 

Until now, because that bright line just got fuzzy.  The United States Supreme Court has just ruled that Congress can take works in the public domain and slap them with a copyright.  Again.  This is true even if the work has been floating around in the public domain for years and years. 

Golan v Holder

Read the full opinion in Cause No. 10-545 before the United States Supreme Court, Golan et al v. Holder, -- U.S. -- (2012) here.  It's a six to two decision; Ginsburg writes for the majority; Breyer and Alito dissent; Kagan recused herself. 

Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988

Why?  Seems the High Court believes that the United States of America must comply with a trade agreement entered into at The Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and signed at Berne, Switzerland on September 9, 1886.  You can read that treaty online here. 

That's because Congress already passed a federal law (the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988), stating that the United States must comply with "all acts, protocols, and revisions" of the  Berne Convention.  The Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1984 amends 17 U.S.C. 104A, 109(b), and adds chapter 11 to title 17 and section 2319(a) to title 18. 

If you check the deal that is known as "the Berne Convention,"  you will find an agreement (treaty) between several nations around the world, copyrights are to be respected as long as a copyright legally exists in any of the countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention.

Read the list of countries that have signed the Berne Convention here.  Right now, there are 165 nations participating in the treaty.   

Which means that work you may have used legally on your blog - say, an excerpt from something written by Tolkein - may no longer be free for your use as public domain and now, subject to copyright.  


Cut and Pasting From the Web: Be Careful.

Last week, another client was happily posting away on their blog and proud of their word count.  Which was good.  However, most of that word count involved cutting and pasting from other web sites.  Not so good.

First of all, it's fine to share news releases.  They are written to be distributed -- the intent of that release is to get that message out.  So, sharing these cuts and paste excerpts in a blog post with an intro "news from Acme site this week" is not a bad, horrible (and by that I mean illegal) thing to do.

Second, it's fine to share information provided on government sites, for example in their "frequently asked questions" section.  Intro the cut and paste excerpt with something like "the [name of agency] recommends the following" and you're fine. 

Third, it's okay to share your own stuff.  Excerpts from your firm website in a firm blog post isn't violating anything.  Example:  the post is discussing a major product recall and you provide an excerpt from the site that discusses your state's products liability law. 

Here's where it's not okay.  It is not okay to take content from other sites - especially news sites - and cut and paste them into your blog post, wham bam.  My client, excited about coverage in the media, plugged media coverage into the blog without getting any okay from the media source.

Not to mention not checking with the news source to determine how much they wanted in payment for the use of their news story.  And its photos. 

Luckily, that post was not published online before someone checked with me and I pointed out that this was copyright infringement of the copyright held by the media source. 

Newspapers and television news departments publish news with photos and videos online because that is how they generate revenue.  They will share that content and those images with you, but they may want payment for the use.  Maybe it's a lot.  Maybe it's a little.

Point is: news stories and television videos - even if you are prominently a part of the story - should not be duplicated on your web site or blog without the permission of the copyright owner. 

Sure, you may think I am nit-picking.  After all, aren't you helping that news source by publicizing its work?  Sorry, but I don't know that the owner of the copyright will agree with that argument.  And, after all, isn't the story all about you and your victorious win, so don't you have some sort of indirect ownership right in the news article anyway?  No.  No you don't.     

Go ahead if you want to risk it.  Lots of sites do this, true.  However, now that NewsRight is out of the box, my nit-picking today may seem prophetical tomorrow.

Better safe than sorry, folks.  Plus, it's the right thing to do.  Don't just plug those news articles into a blog post, even if you or your firm is the star of the story. 


NewsRight: Has Main Stream Media Found a Bigger and Better Righthaven Model? Many Think So. Bloggers, Beware.

This past month, concern has grown over NewsRight, which has many of Main Stream Media's biggest companies (Associated Press is its shareholder, others include the New York Times), working together in their fight to stop various web sites (bloggers, news aggregators) from profiting off their words.

You'll remember my post from long ago, where AP was wanting to be paid per word for its content.  If you quoted - or cut and pasted - over five words from one of its stories, AP expected to be paid. Five words, fork over $12.50.  

That didn't work, apparently.  And now, these MSM folk have banded together to form NewsRight.  You can read what they want you to know about this new venture on their website.

Meanwhile, consider what others are thinking. 

MediaPost hat tips to Righthaven as it discusses NewsRight as an attempt to stop "scrapping" of news stories by web sites. Techdirt considers NewsRight to be "Righthaven Lite," since they don't appear to be as sue-happy as Righthaven was (Righthaven would sue without any advance cease and desist notice).   At least one media law professor seems to agree - we won't see lots of lawsuits being filed (yet). 
And, for an different perspective, consider Nieman Labs optimistic take on things:  NewsRight is a good thing.  Really.