Here’s an email I just sent to the ISP that hosts “Alas, a Blog.” This is regarding the cartoonist Donna Barstow, who work has been criticized on “Alas” here and here. Donna sent an email to the ISP, which the ISP forwarded to me.
Part of Donna’s complaint is that two of her cartoons have been reproduced on “Alas” (which I think is fair use). However, it’s clear that her complaints relate to the entire posts, not just the copyrighted cartoons. For example, she complains about the charge of racism, calling it “defamation.” She also quoted some other ISP’s policy against “Threats & Harassment,” which I think is misplaced, since criticizing her work is not a threat nor harassment.
The email I sent the ISP:
Thanks for forwarding Donna Barstow’s email to me.
I believe I have a first amendment right to criticize Ms. Barstow’s cartoons, including reproducing a cartoon of hers under the “fair use” provisions of copyright law.
However, I hope it will help your situation that neither cartoon she refers to is currently hosted on your server. They are both “hotlinked” from the blog but hosted on another web server. So you can honestly tell Ms. Barstow that neither of her cartoons are on your servers, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with your ISP. I hope that will convince her to stop bothering you.
It is my understanding that political criticism of published, publicly available cartoons falls squarely under the “fair use” standard, and that I’m well within my rights to show my readers a political cartoon in order to critique its politics. As a professional political cartoonist myself, I’ve had the same thing happen to me countless times. Donna Barstow is attempting to use bullying and legal threats to shut down legitimate, legal criticism of her publicly displayed political cartoons.
I really hope you’re not going to give in to something like this. It’s a real threat to freedom of speech if ISPs are willing to remove political criticism removed from blogs if the person being criticized sends a strongly worded email.
I am certainly willing to discuss this further with you. Please email me if you have any further questions or concerns.