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The controversy over Sarah Palin’s pages

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Last week, culture-watching website Gawker learned not to make a mama grizzly angry. With a large helping of its trademark snarky commentary, it posted scanned pages from Sarah Palin’s upcoming book, ‘America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag,’ online on Wednesday. ‘Isn’t that illegal?’ Palin tweeted.

Is it? Gawker claimed fair use -- pointing to the Fair Use Wikipedia page and the Stanford University Libraries’ definition -- but the matter isn’t all that straightforward. As one of Gawker’s commenters pointed out, because the book has not yet been published, fair use may not apply.

Indeed, on Saturday, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against Gawker, saying it had to take down the pages -- which it did, removing the images and commentary relating to them -- most shockingly, perhaps, without making any further comment.

Publisher HarperCollins -- which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which also owns Fox News, the network that employs Palin as a commentator -- brought the suit in New York district court on Friday. HarperCollins Publishers spokeswoman Tina Andreadis told the Wall Street Journal Saturday evening, ‘We see the ruling as a victory. Gawker shouldn’t have posted this. It’s a copyright infringement. We are defending our author and our publication.’

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But is it infringement? What harm was there in bringing Palin’s pages to light last week? The book is not in draft form -- in fact, it’s completely finished and will be in bookstores on Tuesday. Barring some kind of strange machinations, every page that Gawker put on its website will be available for anyone interested to see in just a few days.

The hearing about Gawker’s posting of Sarah Palin’s ‘America by Heart’ is scheduled for Nov. 30.

-- Carolyn Kellogg


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