JTA & Duplicate Content

I got this email today from JTA.org:

Hey Luke,

I’m sure you remember me from my Jewschool days.

Just a heads up:  JTA’s pretty adamant about making sure that people don’t reprint our content in full if they’re not paying customers.  Part of that is our obligation as the copyright holder, the other is that the exclusivity of our content to our playing clients is the only thing currently keeping us in business.  Therefore, if you don’t want your hoster getting a DMCA takedown notice from our lawyer, if and when you link to JTA stories, you should really not quote more than a one or two paragraphs, otherwise it gets kind of problematic.  If you’d revise your Madoff post to reflect that, it’d be much appreciated.

Take care.

Daniel Sieradski
Director of Digital Media, JTA

Legally, JTA has an open-and-shut case. Here, I originally quoted nine paragraphs out of a 25-paragraph story. This does not qualify as "fair use." I stole their content.

I wonder how many of these emails JTA sends out. I suspect there are two likely reasons I was chosen to get this and neither of these reasons have to do with my quoting their nine paragraphs.

One, JTA not only reads me, they often use my content. For instance, in the story in question, JTA says: "In Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Foundation’s $238 million Common Investment Pool lost $18 million it had invested with Madoff, according to a letter sent out by the foundation." That information comes from me. I broke that story. As is usual with the mainstream media, JTA takes information broken by a smaller outlet without attribution.

I remember when producer Edgar J. Scherick died, the Los Angeles Times took quotes Edgar gave me on his death bed (well, quotes given to me within three months of his death) and used them — without attribution — in their obituary. This is a common form of theft by the MSM.

Second, it is likely that JTA monitors its sources of traffic and this morning my website was one of its major sources of traffic.

I wonder why JTA takes the time and expense to send out these notices while for-profit news operations do not? Does JTA as a charity have insights into making money that the big boys do not? How come I have never received one of these notices from the Los Angeles Times or the New York Times or Fox News, when I have quoted from them at least as liberally?

A source at JTA says: "That’s likely because you’re small fish for them. However the Jewish [world] is small enough and your traffic is high enough for you to threaten our papers. In fact that’s how I found out about your post. One of out papers alerted me."

This paper is clueless if they think my republishing nine paragraphs from JTA threatens them. First of all, their newspaper is hurt in Google by their own duplication of JTA content (even if it is done legally). Second, anyone who waits for a print edition of a newspaper to get this information is dying (as are those who rely upon such people to earn their living).

I wonder if in this respect JTA is clueless (it can be clueless and survive because it is subsidized). When I (or any website) duplicate content from JTA, one party is hurt. But it is not JTA. It is the duplicator who gets penalized by Google (reduced page rank, lower quality Adsense ads, lower search rankings, etc, I rank massively in Google because I publish so much original quality content). This is the reason the for-profit news media ignore bloggers duplicating their content. They don’t waste their money on legal threats that do them harm (ill will, reduced links and cooperation) and no good.

(I have received three cease-and-desists of this nature in eleven years of blogging. One from the Village Voice in 1998, one from the Baltimore Jewish Times in 2004 and one now from JTA.)

JTA is a non-profit organization. Its domain is JTA.org. The .org ending is for non-profits. When you read JTA — rarely a pleasant experience — you are constantly asked to donate. JTA is not a business as Sieradski claims above. It is an organization that could not exist without massive charity from the Jewish Federation and other sources. Some of the money I give to the Jewish Federation ends up funding JTA to send me (and other bloggers) cease-and-desists.

If JTA were a business as Sieradski claims, they would not be wasting their time with such narishkeit.

Most Jews who give money to the Federation to feed the homeless and resettle Jews in Israel and other worthy causes have no idea that their money also goes to subsidize JTA sending out such cease-and-desist letters and to Gary Rosenblatt‘s newspaper The Jewish Week (both Gary and the paper had to pay a huge fine for lying on their postage forms, then they never reported the matter in their publication, such sterling Jewish ethics deserve to be subsidized) and most other Jewish newspapers in America.

I wonder why JTA does not use Adsense on its site? Because, once again, it is too clueless? I bet if they did use Adsense, they’d bollix it up as the Jewish Journal does and make only pennies.

I generally avoid reading JTA’s website because it used to (and may still) prompt me to log-in to read stories. If JTA had a clue about the web, it would disable this and maximize its readership and its Adsense earnings.

A few months ago, JTA asked me for permission to use one of my photographs of Marc Gafni. I freely gave it and they used the photo. I know that JTA plunders my site for content and I plunder them. As the Talmud says, "one who says, what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours, is a rascal". (Pirkei Avot)

During the 30 minutes I spent writing this post, my Adsense earnings went up $3. Truly the Lord rewards the righteous (when I look at the world, I just see one big opportunity to give), while sinners, He smites with a mighty hand and forces them to ask for donations on every page.

FailedMessiah.com nails it:

After years of blogging I’ve come to the realization that it is absolutely necessary to archive some of the news articles referenced or quoted here.


Because, when going through older posts, I’ll click on links to stories in the Forward, Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post, etc., and find the links broken. The original articles are gone and sometimes cannot be found by search engines.

When I do notice these broken links I often do not have the time to search for the original article, find it, relink it and then republish the affected post.

I sometimes archive certain articles, often adding them to the extended body of posts that appears only when a link is click (or if entry to the post is through a direct link). Before the archived article, I normally have one or more links to the off-site version posted on Ha’aretz, say, or the Forward. And the posts are written to encourage clicking on those links. At other times I will make a PDF of the story and post that at the bottom of the post, after linking to the online version of the story as noted above. People rarely choose to read the PDF when the online version is available. The PDF serves primarily as a backup in case the news source braks the original link.

Ha’aretz and other publications make their money online by increasing the number of page views (hits) they have. This allows them to charge more for online ads.

Sites like FailedMessiah.com drive traffic to Ha’aretz, the Forward and other publications and also increase news outlets’ brand recognition. You’ll note my standard way of linking to a story is to write, "Ha’aretz reports," or "The Forward reports," meaning the paper’s brand name is on every page the story is on at least that one time and that there is one, and often more, link to the paper. This also boosts news outlets’ search engine scores, which also raises news outlets’ ad revenue. They benefit even if some of their articles are archived here.

I would prefer not to have to do this. But as long as these publications break their own links, there is no other way to be certain the information is available.

As opposed to certain Orthodox news blogs that lift dozens of articles from news sources in their entirety every day, and fill their own blogs with dozens of paid ads to boot, I hope to continue do this only for some stories that are in my judgment too important to risk loss.

I believe this clearly falls under the Fair Use Doctrine and is as such permissible use.

Here are links to news sources I often cite:

Jerusalem Post

The Forward
The New York Jewish Week

New York Times
Associated Press

As always, I encourage you to read these publications and to support them by encouraging others to read them. If possible, subscribe to them as well.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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