Sqwalk.com takes a collateral hit in Whatcom County council election mudslinging
On September 10, www.sqwalk.com received this letter by email:
From: Shirley, Julie [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: September-10-09 9:31 AM
Subject: Copyright violation on your site
It has been brought to my attention that the website located at http://www.sqwalk.com/ has content in written form reproduced from The Bellingham Herald and TheBellinghamHerald.com.
Please remove all Bellingham Herald content present on your site immediately. You are also urged to not publish future stories or images from The Herald or The BellinghamHerald.com on your site without prior written consent.
The content in question includes but is not limited to the following items on your website:
Please remove the materials cited above immediately, and any others that you may know of in violation of The Bellingham Herald's copyright within the next 5 business days.
Please reply with confirmation of action taken within 5 business days or this matter will be forwarded to the McClatchy Company's legal department for further action.
If you have comments or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
Julie Shirley, Executive Editor
The Bellingham Herald and TheBellinghamHerald.com
1155 N. State St., Bellingham WA 98225
Voice: (360) 715-2261
Fax: (360) 756-2826
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Readers might like to know how it came about.
Back in 1999, a pipeline spilling gasoline blew up in a park in Bellingham, killing two boys and a young man. Carl Weimer was incensed and led a local, then state-wide, and now national initiative for greater pipeline safety - better information, better regulation and oversight, more transparency throughout. He now leads the Bellingham-based Pipeline Safety Trust (www.pstrust.org), which was started with funding provided by the families whose children were killed, using funds from an award paid by the pipeline company. Carl is also running for a second term as a Whatcom County Councillor.
In 2000 or 2001 I met Carl and a friendship started.
In 2004, the fifth anniversary of the deaths, the Bellingham Herald published an excellent series of articles about the incident, the tragedy and its aftermath. One of those articles is posted on www.sqwalk.com, and it includes a picture of Carl Weimer. (It also commemorated the tragedy appropriately in June 2009, on the tenth anniversary.)
Fast forward to August 2009. A conservative group which was created to work for conservate candidates in the Whatcom County Council election, and which is associated with the local Republican Party, put together a two-page brochure "aiming at the left-leaning Council candidates". It included pictures of those candidates. One of those pictures, the one of Carl, it apparently obtained from this website. Strange choice - there are many photos of Carl available, and in this one he's barely recognizable.
Permission is being sought from the Bellingham Herald to post its picture of the front of the Rural Neighbors PAC brochure. In the meantime, you can find it here.
A furor broke out about the brochure, someone asked questions about the photos used on it, one thing led to another, and eventually the Executive Editor of the Bellingham Herald wrote the letter copied above.
Here are links to two blogs by Sam Taylor, from the Bellingham Herald on September 9 & 10.
Rural Neighbors PAC aims at left-leaning County Council candidates
Herald photos used in Dow’s conservative mailer, action won’t be taken
The second blog says this:
"The photo of Carl Weimer is from 2004 in which he’s near Whatcom Creek regarding the Olympic Pipeline Explosion. It appears that a group calling themselves the Concerned Citizens Coalition in regards to the Georgia Strait Crossing Pipeline took the article the photo was related to — and the photo — and reprinted it online, right here.
"Both of those links and photos have been sent around to various people in the community now who are discussing the taking of Herald photos.
"Bellingham Herald Executive Editor Julie Shirley issued the following statement about the photos:
"If the photos are ours, I’m disappointed anyone would take content without permission. However, because it appears only a small portion of the total photo was used, we’re not going to take legal action at this time. After conversations with our legal counsel, we’ve decided this isn’t a case in which to test “fair use” in court. The Web site that appears to have taken content without license or permission has been contacted and asked to remove our story."
And thus, sqwalk.com takes a collateral hit from Whatcom County politics.
Posted by Arthur Caldicott on 10 Sep 2009
Carl Weimer says in an email: "Just a heads up that there are some political shenanigans going on here in Bellingham and you may get dragged in. Some local conservatives have run a campaign hit piece (it's election time around here and I am running again) and they used a Bellingham Herald picture in their mailer. Seems that photo has been tracked back to the Sqwalk website ...."