Washington Post aggregates nearly entire Putin op-ed

The Washington Post's Max Fisher annotates Vladimir Putin's now-famous op-ed for The New York Times. By my count, Fisher's post contains 992 words of the 1,074 that ran under the Russian president's byline in the Times.

One of the four "beans on the scale" when deciding if something falls under fair use doctrine is the "amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole." But Brad A. Greenberg, an intellectual property fellow at Columbia Law School's Kernochan Center, told me on Twitter that "increasingly decisions turn on whether derivative use is transformative" and that given Fisher's voluminous commentary -- he added 1,349 words to Putin's, something I should have noted in the earlier version of this post -- "this is a pretty plainly transformative use."

The Post linked to the original story, Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy tells Poynter in an email, and "combined with the fact that Putin's words are a central part of the political story today, it's not an issue we are overly concerned with."

The Post's liberal use of the Putin text is still fascinating, given a weird recent dustup between the Post's Ezra Klein and BuzzFeed about whether the latter ripped off Fisher's popular Syria explainer, as well as remarks made by soon-to-be Post owner Jeffrey Bezos recently:

“The Post is famous for its investigative journalism,” he told the Post's Paul Farhi. “It pours energy and investment and sweat and dollars into uncovering important stories. And then a bunch of Web sites summarize that [work] in about four minutes and readers can access that news for free."

Both the Post and the Times have paywalls. The Times didn't pay Putin to write his op-ed, Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan reported Thursday.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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