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Naples Daily News Bans Local Citizen from Writing to Paper


Open Letter to All Anti-War Supports:

Another example of how the media is being controlled!

I have been banned from my local news paper, The Naples Daily News, from writing any more letters to the editor.

To date, I have had four, very successful and powerful anti-war and anti-Bush letters published. Yesterday, the editor of the paper banned me from any more letters.

His entirely feeble excuse was that I used excerpts from a web blog within my letter, to further my own thoughts and ideas and therefore failed to credit the author.

The failed component in his flawed reasoning is that I had FULL permission to use the quotes without credit or copyright violation. In short, it was public domain information from a "talking points" memo that may be freely used by anyone!

After a long, back and forth email exchanged, which included a direct letter from the original author, stating I had permission to use the material, I was still banned from the paper.

Oddly, this all came about exactly three hours after the paper received nationwide, negative coverage on the Neil Boortz show, with reference to my letter and how the Naples Daily News had a decidedly liberal slant!

My final email to the editor was that I would continue to not only express my views in other mediums but would reach out to the entire democratic community and ask for their support.

I am calling for a ban on the Naples Daily News for its oppressive, unfair editing tactics and ask that your write the editor, if you agree with me, expressing your disappointment in such obvious control strategies.

Email the Naples Daily News: letters@naplesnews.com

Thank you in advance for your support!

-Frank Ranelli
Naples, FL

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I just wrote them and told them Shame, Shame on you for not publishing Frank Ranelli's letters to the editor. I also told them they can't be called a Free Press any more!

My letter:

If you can't print the dissenting view in your editorials column with the usual disclaimer about not necessarily being the views of this newspaper, you're nothing more than part of a propaganda machine. Shame on you. Neil Boortz might have had something to say, but to think that you would cower at that and stop doing your job, which is to keep the public informed, you don't deserve to sell newspapers or anything else. I just looked at your site, and saw who your advertisers are. I'm writing to them too.

Even if you have the permission of the author, you still need to cite their contribution. Otherwise, it is textbook plagiarism. I'm sorry to hear that you were banned, but you need to realize that newspapers can be sued when you present someone else's copyrighted work as your own. The paper looks really bad if someone reads your letter to the editor and then reads an identical earlier blog entry from someone else. Since you didn't include the attribution of the blog, any reasonable reader would think that the paper is publishing stolen material. Don't take it personally. It's common practice and it's the law.

I'm sure that they will let you back in at some point. Perhaps writing a letter that explains how you used the blog would clear things up. When you do get back in, make sure that you are extra careful to give anyone you quote credit.

Thanks for commenting, but I think you missed the point. First, as my letter states, I had a lengthy email exchange with the editor explaining things. He refused to listen. I even offer a retraction and apology, even though I did nothing wrong, to satisfy the paper.

The information that I used was public domain "talking points" that do not require credit be given. It was not a case of plagerism at all. No attribution is needed. This is very standard practice on many activists web blogs.

These are the same things as when you sign an electronic petition that auto-signs your name to it and sends it to a Senator, for example. Millions of people use these same form letters everyday and have the EXACT same letter signed with a million different peoples names. No attribution is required!

Finally, the information did not have a copyright. Again, it was public domain material that was MEANT to be copied and used as your own. Also, I had the author's permission to use the content, without credit being given and I did not copy the whole article, just excerpts to strengthen my own point.

I hope this clears up what I believe you miss-understood.

I am a First Amendment lawyer who deals with intellectual property cases, so I am very sympathetic to your concerns.

The term "public domain" infers that several legal requirements that need to be met. One is that the product be over 17 or 20 years old and that no author is currently using it(depending on where it falls under the federal Copyright Act). The rules are different for musical recordings. Also, works under "public domain" still need to be cited. Anyone is allowed to publish "Romeo and Juliet" because it is under public domain, but you need to say that Shakespeare wrote it. You just can't sign your name to other people's published work, even if they let you. A ghostwriter never publishes work in their own name, which changes the equation.

You said: "The information that I used was public domain "talking points" that do not require credit be given. It was not a case of plagerism at all. No attribution is needed. This is very standard practice on many activists web blogs." Sorry, but any judge would not give a second thought to this argument. Attribution is always required on anything "substantially" derived from previously published material. The perogative of this disclosure is with the governement, not the original author or the persom who reuses the material. The author cannot decide that they do not want attribution if the rewritten document is to be republished in any substantial form. If you are vague enough in rewriting the talking points in such a way as they become "substantially distint" from the original document, you are a-OK. But if an editor can connect the dots, the letter was probably covered under the "substantial" similarity doctrine.

I think that your intentions are good, but a newspaper feels used when it finds out that something that was submitted was not entirely original. Quite frankly, they feel like they and their readers have been duped into working as agents of an organized movement. Maybe they are right or wrong, but that is how they have operated when it comes to intellectual property. The same thing would happen if an NRA member rewrote some gun rights talking points and someone recognized them as coming from the NRA. It's almost like money laundering, but with thoughts. It is concealing the source by using an intermediary.

When you send a form letter to a Senator, it is never published by a third party. You print it and sign it or have some kind of automated system send it to the Senator. But the newspaper reprints what you wrote with the assumption that it is original and they expose themself to liability. What the newspaper objects to is when they are made part of a larger movement when the paper is intended to serve individuals. You have to understand that they are working on the "good faith" assumption and the minute that they doubt that someone is dealing in good faith, they lose all protection if they continue to deal with them.

I don't agree with them banning you and I hope that you get published again soon. They should let you write as many letters are possible, but I'm trying to help you understand the concerns that they may not be expressing explicitly. I think that they should accept your apology, acknowlege what you did, and move on. Their hold of a grudge on this really sucks.

Think of this as probation. If they feel that you understand what happened and you can be trusted again, then you'll get back after a quick trip to letter-writing Siberia.

HOPE YOU GET THE LETTER FLOWING AGAIN!!!

I appreciate the legal views and advice. I think this boils down to four very simple points:

1. This was a letter to the editor of a small, local newspaper who made a very big deal out of nothing and started the whole dialogue via email in a provoking manner, after they were called out on a national talk show.

2. These "talking points" are distributed all over internet political sites and they have huge data bases of texts that is solely and purposely designed to be copied and encouraged to be sent to the editors of newspapers, anonymously . Many, in fact, are common knowledge facts that are repeated all day by people and activists up to and including the Pentagon. (See letter below) without credit or attribution being given.

3. As a novice writer, I included information that I believed, in good faith, was OK to use and the web page I derived it from stated it was Ok to copy and share. No mention of attribution required was stated or implied.

4. At worst I made an honest mistake based on ignorance of intellectual property as a pure amateur, simply writing a letter in which no harm, malevolence or violation of the law was intended or pre-meditated. At best, I did what thousands of other people do everyday, invoke my right to freedom of speech and one time, in four letters, mistakenly failed to give credit for some content.

I hardly think any of this is worth the hassle, rudeness and banning of my letters that has been displayed by the Naples Daily News. This is why I took my cause public and to the blogs.

Your points are well taken, but if the paper feels duped, it was not intentional and they need to get over it and stop whining about a single letter submitted by an ordinary citizen.

As you can see, I have no problem expressing my self or my ideas without the help of others!

Thanks for the support and the "HOPE YOU GET THE LETTER FLOWING AGAIN!!!" comment.

--------------------------------------------

An email, directly from the publisher of the material and information I used:

Sent: Wednesday, July 27, 2005 5:32 PM
Subject: letter writing campaign in my local news paper

Hi Frank,

Thanks for your kind words and support :)
We are honored when our readers think enough of our writing to include it in their own. Everything we publish is meant to be shared.

It's outrageous that your paper would ban you for using excerpts.
Just yesterday the Pentagon admitted it used the same anonymous civilian quotes to describe two different bombings.

You should ask your paper if they are going to ban the Pentagon!

-Bob

Did you know that Neal Boortz has a home in Naples? Perhaps he is friends with the editor.

That would make perfect sense. I contacted Boortz, via email, and he flatly denied contacting the Naples Daily News. But, I wondered what a guy in Atlanta was doing reading the Naples Daily News in Naples, Florida.

I am sure in a town that is saturated with wealthy, conservative republicans, that the paper did not like the "decidedly liberal slant" moniker placed on it and felt they need to do something.

As long as the rebuttal letters to my own were pro-Bush and were bashing me, the editor was fine printing them, when the paper itself was labeled along side me, i.e. liberal, they backed off and had to find someway to "expose" me and took this censorship stance!

The Czars controlling newspaper and television "news" are intent on supporting the administration and the war by keeping the public in the dark about the death and destruction of lives and property in Iraq. They also go to great lengths to ignore the revelations of how the administration fixed intelligence to support its plans to attack Iraq. When Mr. Ranelli, or anyone else, attempts to reveal the information the media is censoring, what better way to shut them up than accuse them of having a "liberal slant". Who are these people that are so intent on keeping the US military permanently based in a dozen Mideast countries no matter how many more than the present number of 1788 US soldiers are killed?

Who are these people, you ask? They are war profiteers, backed by huge corporations that feed off of the carnage, death and destruction of people that are less fortunate and less financially able to defend themselves. That's is who they are!

It's outrageous how a few right-wingers in positions of power in the media can silence millions of us who object to the neocon crime wave that's washing over this country.

What it comes down to is that they're organized and we're not. Boycotting advertisers is a powerful tactic, but the media corporations can safely ignore it when it's a few outraged liberals. And not many of us have the time to do research on which companies are subsidizing repression through their ads.

What we need is a central location where the advertisers that support censoring media outlets can be listed. Corporations that contribute to the Republican Party can also be listed here.

A central location would allow the average person to print out the blacklisted corporations, and consult it before buying something.

There are people out there who have the knowledge and skills to do this, and it would start to have an impact on the right wing, which up to now has been able to do what they want with no consequences.

We need organization!

Here's one list of GW's campaign contributors:

http://www.counterpunch.org/pioneers.html

The truth is out there. Here and there. You're right. We need to list it all in one place.

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