Written by Radio

Ben Goldacre and LBC

This is interesting to watch, and perhaps shows how if you’re not careful, things will run away from you.
Ben Goldacre, the writer of The Guardian’s Bad Science column and author of the very excellent Bad Science book, wrote about a programme broadcast by LBC presented by Jenni Barnett.
I’ll say up front that I think Goldacre’s work is excellent and important with the media regularly misusing and abusing science to make a good headline or story. Seriously – get his book and read about them yourself.
Goldacre is undoubtedly especially upset by the mis-reporting of MMR and the whole nonsense that came out of it. The media scare stories naturally did just that – scare parents into not having the vaccination.
Only today comes news that the rise in measles in the UK is “very worrying.” The cases reported are disproportionately high in London (where LBC broadcasts incidentally), and the blame is squarely being laid at the now discredited research linking MMR with autism. So it’s a matter of public health that false stories aren’t perpetuated.
To illustrate his piece, he uploaded a long piece of audio lifted from the show, or more probably, someone paid for that edition’s podcast and excerpted 44 minutes of the show.
I am not a copyright lawyer, but that’s probably not legal*. The copyright in the audio does reside with Global Radio – indeed, beyond the value attained by broadcasting advertising around the programme, there are also podcast revenues derived from sales and subscriptions to LBC’s programming.
So cut and dry then? Goldacre shouldn’t have re-published the audio.
Well yes, but that’s only part of the story. Barnett later apologised on her blog, and Goldacre felt that the full extent of what had been broadcast needed to be understood.
I’m summarising – read the full story here and here.
LBC responded by sending a legal letter. Goldacre took the audio down, although it has since resurfaced elsewhere.
And while LBC, Global and their lawyers are almost certainly entirely within their rights to demand the removal, the net affect at time of writing seems to have been to antagonise a wide ranging web community.
The story was published on the influential, and widely read Boing Boing earlier today, and the traffic from that site actually temporarily brought down the Bad Science site (it’s up again now).
I suspect that there may be complaints to Ofcom forthcoming as well.
What do we learn from this? That once lawyers get involved, not everyone just folds. Especially if they’ve just fought a major case in the High Court against an Aids denier.
And the net result might be a lot of negative comment about your brand, even if you’re technically in the right.

* From what I can gather, there’s the US “fair use” concept does not exist in UK law. We have “fair dealing“. In this instance, it’d be within the purvue of “reporting current events“.
As a non-lawyer, it’s not clear to me in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 what proportion of copyright material might be quoted or broadcast.