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How Free is Free?

2006-09-09 19:00:55.076168+00 by petronius 6 comments

An intriguing free-speech conundrum: A small local free newspaper with a conservative bent is distributed by leaving it in public places, like the vestibule of a store or the doorway of coffee-shops. However, the local KKK is collecting the papers, inserting their own anti-semitic and rascist flyers, and leaving them on people's doorsteps, without the knowlege or approval of the paper's publisher. He is now suing the Klan for misrepresenting his company's policies. So here's the question: If I make something available for free, can I control what use they may make of it afterwards?

[ related topics: Business Free Speech Journalism and Media ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-09-09 20:58:56.548042+00 by: ziffle

Well there is the theory of "intefering with a commercial enterprise"


#Comment Re: made: 2006-09-09 21:40:18.16703+00 by: TheSHAD0W

In this case, the newspaper should get an agreement from the places that distribute it to limit distribution to one per person; then the KKK can be charged with theft by those places.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-09-10 02:04:22.57066+00 by: Larry Burton

I would think that a case of copyright violation could be made.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-09-10 02:40:40.666469+00 by: crasch

To my mind, the question is, "who owns the newspapers, once they've been distributed"? If they're distributed for free, then I don't think the conservative paper can prevent the KKK from inserting fliers and distributing them, distasteful as the KKK's behavior may be. If I buy a book, I have the right to paste my "Heil Hitler!" bookplate into it. If I then sell the book, or give it to a library, I don't think the book publisher should have the right to tell me I can't. And likewise for these newspapers.

However, I think that the newspaper and coffeeshops do have a case, in that they own the newspaper stands and tables, and did not give permission to distribute the KKK fliers there. The KKK is therefore committing a form of trespass.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-09-11 00:49:05.615182+00 by: baylink

This is handled, by our local alt-weekly, The Weekly Planet, as a case of simple theft. No one is invited to take more than one copy of the paper from a distribution rack. If you do -- and they would, to insert their flyers -- then they are stealing the papers, regardless that they redistribute them.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-09-11 19:36:32.537974+00 by: petronius

This also relates to a periodic scourge at college campuses: newspaper theft. Somebody publishes something in the Daily Ivy-covered that offends the Third world people's Ingsoc party, and they send their minions out to scour the campus and confiscate all copies of the paper.

of course, there are other cases. A friend of mine at Jesuit-run Loyola University in Chicago tells the tale of how in 1962 the paper's own staff went streaming out across the campus to round up all copies of the Daily Phoenix. It seems an article about a social function for the spouses of non-clergy professors came out "Lay Faculty Wives at Communuion Breakfast".