Ruin the Web with this one weird trick

It seems to me that the public, today, has a new relationship with corporations and brands. In contrast with previous generations, consumers are more sceptical, more curious, and are grasping for a semblance of autonomy.

How did I come to formulate this profound insight? Why, I read it on CosmeticsDesign.com.

Trouble is, the fine folks at CosmeticsDesign.com don’t believe I should be able to relay those thirty words (or indeed any quote of any length) directly to you. If you go on their website, highlight text, and attempt to copy it, the above pop-up window appears to let you know exactly what you’re permitted to do. That pop-up provides the only text on the page for which copying isn’t disabled.

This is awful for several reasons. For one thing, it’s a brazen misrepresentation of how copyright works. While the article on that page certainly enjoys copyright protection, copyright isn’t the impenetrable content-guarding force field some people wish it to be. Copying small percentages of a work for the purpose of commenting on it is as fair as fair use gets. The pop-up box is designed to make you think (although it doesn’t quite say so explicitly) that any copying not approved by the copyright holder is infringement, and this is a persistent and pernicious untruth.

For another thing, disabling one of the most basic functions of a browser (not insurmountably, but still) is a slap in the face to the open web. And CosmeticsDesign.com is hardly alone in this — big content creators are pushing to add DRM to every corner of the web, including fundamental building blocks like HTML and JPEG, so that in future, when they decide fair use is too inconvenient to permit, they can make it stick. That’s why it’s crucial to keep pushing back against the myth that all copying violates copyright.

(Hat tip to my colleague Perry Hewitt, on whose Twitter feed I saw this.)