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Will Rogers Maybe Republican U.S. Rep. Jim...

Will Rogers

Maybe Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Rogan should just dump the Web sites

he’s established, one each for his office and his reelection campaign.

They cause him a lot of headaches.

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That’s right, yet another faux pas has reared its ugly head, forcing

changes to minimize damage.

Recent months have seen a series of minor embarrassments, including

endorsements listed on the campaign site from people who haven’t yet

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endorsed him, and others who say they won’t. Grumpy constituents

complained to me that e-mail messages sent through either of Rogan’s Web

sites get no response. My own test messages, using e-mail addresses other

than the one published at the end of this column, were never

acknowledged.

Those gripes led to a more significant scandal, indications someone

working for Rogan’s campaign hacked into the campaign site of his

opponent in the upcoming congressional race, Democratic State Senator

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Adam Schiff.

Rogan’s staff vehemently denied that, but admitted having and using a

password to gain unauthorized access to nonpublic materials on Schiff’s

computer site.

*

The latest gaff I’ve tumbled across is especially surprising given

Rogan’s seat on the house judiciary committee. That powerful seat, and

his prominence on related subcommittees, has Rogan at ground zero in

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debates over copyright issues. That so many media outlets are

headquartered in Rogan’s district and are intensely interested in seeing

intellectual property rights protected was the rationale for Rogan’s

appointment. He even won recent attention with a bill to prohibit

“cyber-squatting,” computer pirates who mislead the public and turn a

profit by infringing on copyrights and trademarks, or by using names that

aren’t theirs.

Given all that, I was surprised to see Rogan’s congressional Web site

offering news releases to describe his activities, though some were

actually copyrighted newspaper articles. They were reproduced without

permission, and without crediting the authors. For example, Rogan offered

browsers a “press release” titled “Do-nothing Congress Doesn’t Apply to

State’s Delegation.”

It described efforts by Californians in Congress, including Rogan.

Like all materials on the taxpayer-paid site, at the bottom was the

notice, “Copyright 1999, James E. Rogan.”

But the story first appeared in The Los Angeles Times on July 18, and

was written by Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Simon. Like every

edition of The Los Angeles Times, it was published with the notice,

“Copyright 1999/The Times Mirror Company.” Times Mirror lawyers have

confirmed Rogan did not ask permission to use the story, and his use

infringed on the newspaper’s copyright.

*

Once I began looking into releases that were actually copyrighted

articles, The Los Angeles Times story and others posted on Rogan’s Web

site for months suddenly vanished. They were replaced by actual news

releases.

Let’s not be silly and pretend Rogan sat at a keyboard and deviously

plagiarized the work of newspaper reporters, fiendishly plotting to deny

them credit for their work. Let’s not even imply a staffer was so

nefarious. But when the materials were prepared for Rogan’s site, someone

had to delete the names of authors and publications. It also required

either deleting or ignoring copyrights. Moreover, Rogan’s copyright was

then attached to materials he did not produce.

As Rogan has reason to know better than almost anyone in the entire

United States, dismissive attitudes toward copyrights outrage those who

demand meaningful protection for their products. I could fuss about the

man who is supposed to protect us being part of the problem. But my heart

wouldn’t be in it. Maybe even I’m too casual about the gaff, but I see

the episode in simpler terms.

To me it’s another in a series of Rogan advertising moral indignation,

demanding we uphold certain standards, while he and his cavalierly flout

those very standards. Typically, each time he’s caught, Rogan and his

supporters ignore the deed, instead crabbing about the motives of those

pointing out the deed. I admit I don’t get it.

*

Voters make choices on ideology, and I waste no space debating those.

But I’m confounded by Rogan’s knack for disregarding pious standards he

sets himself, a pattern that sees him mentioned here again and again

while others -- his campaign opponent, for example -- are rarely

mentioned.

In response, partisans demand to know why I don’t write about Schiff

being a Democrat, or that unions support him -- or many other issues I

put under the heading of “ideological debates.” I don’t write about

ideological views, except perhaps when a pol claims one, then makes a

vote that appears to contradict that position.

I write about Rogan when he keeps repeating his pattern. He’s not a

passionate activist on one issue who’s disdainful of some other I find

important. Instead, he establishes expertise in and speaks out

righteously on Web site hackers, or taxpayer-paid official literature

advancing a campaign, or the sanctity of copyrights. Then, his campaign

hacks into an opponent’s Web site, his official literature is thinly

disguised (and misleading) campaign material, and he infringes on

copyrights.

As soon as Schiff publicly condemns one thing, then turns around and

does exactly that, I’ll eagerly write about it and we’ll at last have

that which some call balance. But if Rogan denounces nose rings this

morning, I’d expect to see him wearing one by dinner time. And anyone

mentioning the contradiction can expect passionate speculation as to

their partisan motives for noticing, and face questions on why there’s no

expose about Schiff’s votes backing a Democratic agenda. Huh?

*

Over the years many candidates have asked my permission to reprint

columns, including council members, activists, and even Rogan’s opponent,

Schiff. With conditions, like requirements that excerpts appear in

context, I’ve given permission to all. But being asked makes all the

difference. Not just as a matter of law, though the newspaper’s lawyers

and my own surely want you to know that’s critically important. It’s also

a basic courtesy.

I’m not shocked Rogan has never used or asked to use one of my

columns, though I have written complimentary words about him. And Schiff

has never asked to reprint columns where I criticized Schiff. But just in

case, I hereby give Rogan permission to reprint this column. I only ask

him to spell the author’s name correctly. It does start with R-o-g, but

ends with e-r-s, not a-n.

Will Rogers’ column appears in every edition of the Leader. He can be

reached 24 hours a day at 241-4141 voice mail ext. 906, or by e-mail at

WillColumn@aol.com. Copyright 1999.


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