Tampa Tribune criticized in YouTube video and on blogs for using content without payment
The Los Angeles-based freelance writer had sent a sardonic column about the birther movement to the Tampa Tribune last month, in hopes they might buy the story. Instead, they printed the piece without her knowledge, and when she emailed to ask for payment, an editor replied that they assumed it was a free submission.
So she posted a video about it on YouTube and got a surprising response: as blogs around the world began to take note of her story, the newspaper agreed to pay her $75 fee.
"If they would have just apologized to me, I would have gone away," said Dupuy, a standup comic, blogger and freelance writer whose work has appeared on Mediabistro.com, the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. "But they sent me this funny email saying we don't have to pay you because you didn't ask us to pay you. So I sent them an invoice...waited three weeks and took my case to YouTube."
Dupuy's case surfaced just as local bloggers began complaining about the Tampa Tribune's Web site, TBO.com, automatically featuring entire posts from their Web sites on its pages without permission or payment. Michael Hussey, creator of the political blog Pushing Rope, has sent the company a $75 invoice for use of its post on Dupuy without his permission; bloggers at sites such as Sticks of Fire and Zencomix have also complained.
(I noticed this morning that Pushing Rope used a quote I reported on my blog without noting where the quote came from -- though there is a link back to my story. After I posted a message, the post has been updated to credit me.)
"I basically covered the St. Petersburg mayoral race for the Tampa Tribune," said Peter Schorsch, creator of the SaintPetersblog site, noting that a search on TBO.com on the name of candidate Scott Wagman turns up a score of posts, about half of which came from his site.
"What I would like to see is a more formal arrangement," added Schorsch, who said he's not interested in compensation and enjoys the traffic which comes to his site from TBO.com. He plans to meet with Tampa Tribune executives Monday. "I'd like to see the material shared in a way that's more respectful of the work."
Janet Coats, executive editor of the Tampa Tribune, said the Web site has always featured snippets of posts from local blogs with links back to the original sites for the full posts. But a new system for automatically gathering the content mistakenly grabbed entire posts for pages deep inside TBO.com, where editors didn't see them.
Now the web site has stopped gathering posts from local bloggers entirely, hoping to meet with them and work out a way to showcase their work as an electronic town hall of sorts.
"We need to talk this through...(because) the days when people were just grateful for the link is long gone," said Coats. "If we had been doing this intentionally, they would have every reason to be here with torches at my office door...but it was a mechanical process. We had no idea it was happening until the bloggers brought it to our attention."
Regarding Dupuy's problem, Coats said the blogger sent her story in using an email link normally reserved for letters to the editor, which newspapers typically do not pay to run. She couldn't say why someone from the newspaper didn't call or email to verify Dupuy's identity before publishing the story.
"The gist of that one is miscommunication all the way down the line," Coats added. "It should have been checked out."
The whole incident has had an upside for Dupuy; publications are asking her to work for free much less often now.
"It's like people are afraid to ask me to work for free, which is great," she said, marvelling at the way YouTube allowed her to publicly challenge a huge company thousands of miles from her home. "Public shaming is so readily accessible now, you can really hold people accountable. I have no emotional parallel for this, but I really feel vindicated."
Here's the videos that made it all happen: