Ethics: Don’t Quote Me, Bro!

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What would you do Wednesday!

Today’s scenario is an interesting one involving blogging, although it could be applied to any online writing. The online exchange of words and ideas is amazingly fast.

If a blogger has any kind of audience and he posts something that challenges that audience there is probably going to be a response. The large technology and political blogs certainly get responses, but a blog need have a huge following to get feedback. Even in the small world of Christian blogging one can get into some pretty heated discussion.

So what if one Christian blogger asks another not to quote any of his words without permission?

This recently happened on another Christian blog. The following was requested.

 Jared,
On a personal note, I would request that you NOT use my comments on other blogs or websites in your blog articles … without …my permission.  My written comments are personalized to that blog article and its context.  I would appreciate you honoring my request for the future. Blessings! – Ron Hale1*

Interesting request. For readers who are unaware, the U.S. Copyright office has a doctrine of “fair use” which states that quoting others may be considered fair in areas “such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.”2 The commenter above responded again admitting that permission to quote him is not required, but that he is asking that his request be honored nonetheless.

What would you do?

  • Honor the request no questions asked.
  • Honor the request, but ask questions.
  • Not honor the request in general.
  • Not honor the request as long as he continues writing online.
  • Write extra blog posts quoting him as much as you can.

*Note: The example used above is just an example of a situation that has occurred on this topic and it is not the topic of this thread. The topic is to answer the question of what you, the reader, would do in this situation.

______________________

  1. Comment from Ron Hale to Jared Moore.
  2. U.S. Copyright Office. Fair Use
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tagged as , in Church Issues,Culture

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike B December 21, 2011 at 9:10 am

As in all ethical scenarios there are lots of factors that will determine the choice. Especially here. I am not sure who Jared and Ron are and whether Jared has a habit of “hunting down Ron”, twisting his words, or misrepresenting what he says thus making Ron’s request reasonable.

However in general as a blogger who often quotes sources, I always (try) to provide a link back to the original source. If I received this request I would ask that person that if I provided a link back that allowed readers to read them in context why the objection. If I misrepresented their view can they correct me and I would offer an update / revisement on the blog.

Mike B
@g1antfan

2 Mark December 21, 2011 at 9:16 am

Thanks, Mike. That is a very reasonable approach.

3 Brent Hobbs December 21, 2011 at 9:45 am

No, there is no need to ask permission to reproduce words posted on any public forum. There should be a link back to the original quotation if possible, but Ron’s request is unreasonable and IMO, Jared has no reason to honor it, unless he wants to.

If Jared were taking the quotes our of context or showing them in a different light than the original quotation, then we do have an ethical problem. But it would be on Jared’s part alone and have nothing whatever to do with the quoting act itself, just the manner in which he were (mis)quoting.

4 MarieP December 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

I see you answered your own question in your blog post 😉 But then again, you aren’t Jared Moore!

Mike B. summed up my own thoughts on the issue. I can see why someone might not want to be quoted without their permission. They don’t want to spend the time answering people on other blogs. They might be able to add a caveat or additional information because of the audience for which they originally wrote.

And- did you notice we’re assuming the quotation of someone else is for reasons of criticism? Not that it’s a bad thing to do, but why is it that the more controversial a blog post is, the more comments and linkage? My pastor has well said that, if there was a moratorium on the internet and all you could write was encouraging words about others, there would be tumbleweed blowing through the blogosphere.

5 brigand December 21, 2011 at 11:54 am

MarieP, I’m all for the moratorium.

An stalker needs more than just “please don’t quote me”. If conversations are private, make them private.

The big problem with “please don’t quote me” is that it deflects accountability for the things you say.

6 Scott McClare December 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Certain classes of discourse should be considered “published.” Obvious examples of these would be views expressed in print or broadcast media: books, newspapers, radio programs, and so forth. To this I would add, say, sermons posted to a church’s Web site, lectures in an open university classroom, and blog posts. Assuming it is not restricted for private viewing (i.e. a personal blog meant only for invited family members), a blog is, by its very nature, also a published medium.

It is unreasonable for Ron (or anyone else who makes published statements) to expect those statements to be exempt from public scrutiny or criticism. You can imagine the chilling effect that would ensue if controversial polemicists (for example, Holocaust deniers) could deny students, sociologists, etc. the right to quote their works in their dissertations. Copyright law exists to protect the rights of authors to profit from their work. It is not a shield to protect them from legitimate criticism – hence the Fair Use doctrine – or, worse, a sword to attack their critics with. Ron’s intentions might be good, and he is simply attempting to safeguard the accuracy of his posts. Someone else’s intention might be to reserve the right to himself to say ridiculous or blasphemous things with no accountability. There shouldn’t be a double standard.

As Mike suggested, though, linking back to the original article is the right thing to do: both to give credit where due to the source, and to safeguard its integrity by giving readers easy access to the original.

7 Scott McClare December 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm

MarieP asked: “why is it that the more controversial a blog post is, the more comments and linkage”

That’s a tautology, of course! By definition, something controversial stimulates discussion and debate – and, on the blogosphere, comments and linkage. 🙂

8 Howell Scott December 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Mark,

I missed the original exchange between Jared and Ron. While I have not met either personally, I consider them both friends and brothers-in-Christ. That being said, I think it would be rare for someone to make a request to not be quoted in someone else’s post. As others have already stated, I make it a practice to link to the original source when I am quoting someone in my blog post.

I don’t want to preemptively bind my hands, but I would say that if another Christian requested that I not quote them directly, I would do my best to honor that request. Am I morally/ethically obligated to do so in every instance? No, I don’t think so. Fair use, particularly if the quotes are public, would subject those quotes to public reaction and criticism. But, in the context of “Christian” blogging, what benefit does it do me — or more importantly the Kingdom — to claim “fair use” and therefore ignore the request of another Christian, even if I thought it was unreasonable? There are other ways to interact with what someone has said without directly quoting them (i.e., links or not naming the person specifically) that would suffice if such a request was made.

In the end, I think we should always “err” on the side of extending grace, even if we are not obligated to do so. After all, isn’t that what grace is all about? Hope you have a very Merry Christmas and God’s blessings in the New Year! God bless,

Howell

9 Lidia December 21, 2011 at 3:03 pm

This morning a had this experience with an interesting article about Christmas published by Hearthlight org. (What do you do with Jesus at Christmas by Steve Ridgell). I was already selecting the text to paste it to an e-mail to
some Brazilian friends when oopps! I was faced with the following: (Expressed written consent must be obtained prior to republishing, retransmitting or otherwise reusing the content of this article. Contact us at info@hopeforlife.org)

I was surprised because the blog allows you to “like”, to “tweet” etc. but, not to share it. And the article is really good but sharing what you read on internet is something you do on the spot or you miss the moment and don´t do it at all. You may take the time to do what I was going to do, but to ask permission, wait for a reply, go back to the page, well..you know the drill, it just doesn´t work.
I would never dream of sending an article without quoting the source… but some things are just too time-consuming.

10 Joshua December 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I would politely not honor the request. Whatever is posted in the public sphere (i.e. books, websites, forums, mass emails) is public information. If the author does not want his literature quoted and discussed freely then he has the right to not say anything at all in the public sphere. As long as the one quoting properly cites the source, there is no foul. It is the reader’s responsibility to check the source and see if the quote is being “ripped” out of its context or not.

11 Chris Roberts December 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Agree with Brent above. It is not a reasonable request and there is no ethical obligation to agree. Anyone who makes their words public needs to realize those words are now open for further discussion and dissemination.

12 Josh C December 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Such a request does seem odd, in general. Anytime there’s a tendency to be willing to say something publicly in one crowd (or site) but not another, seeds of hypocrisy are being planted. In fact, I’ve been stopped from making many unnecessary, snarky, or sinful comments by asking whether I wanted such a comment to be associated with me if someone did a simple Google search.

From the ethics issue of being the person asked not to quote, I like Howell’s thinking in general, here, though. Sometimes we lose sight in our blogging that it is not an academic excercise or debate club where sources need citation and our arguments should be point-by-point refutation of the quotes. There are times when public figures (Christian or otherwise) say things that need discussion, but every time? “As much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.” That verse puts the burden of Christian maturity on us to at times choose peace with a brother (even a brother we disagree with!) if it is in our power. Clearly, not quoting someone is within our power. Is quoting them legal? Sure. Is it ethical if you are attempting to read them in context and critique? Sure. Is it always necessary? Maybe/maybe not.

And of course, don’t accuse people of not citing their accusations on one website, and then go on another and ask for them not to cite you.

13 Mark December 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Marie, I wondered if anyone would pick up on my using that quote. 🙂

All, a few of you have mentioned someone like Ron being upset for not citing the original content, but I’m not sure why.

I appreciate all of the insightful comments. I think it would be tough to expect others to ask permission before quoting in this web of idea exchange and debate.

14 Ron Hale December 21, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Mark,

I think Howell Scott has the best head and heart here concerning the subject. However … that is no surprise to me, as soon as I saw his name, I instantly knew that his Christian character would promote more grace than law.

Merry Christmas!

15 Mark December 21, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Ron,

I understand and mostly appreciate Howell’s comments. However, one might even say that you are promoting more law than grace by asking for such a favor regarding quoting you. 😉

Merry Christmas to you too!

16 Ron Hale December 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Mark,
No … I can ask this of Jared because we are Brothers in Christ. A Brother may not like me because of certain positions that I’ve taken, but a Brother must always love his Brother. Agape love always seeks the highest good of his Brother. As a Brother, I can only ask respectfully, and that I did.

Blessings, Ron

17 Joshua December 21, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Ron,

I’m sorry you feel we all did not display Christian character. However, Mark’s point is valid.

18 Jared Moore December 22, 2011 at 3:11 am

Ron, are you saying that it’s loving to honor request, but unloving to reject your request?

19 Ron Hale December 22, 2011 at 9:11 am

Jared,
No … I’m saying that as a Brother, I had the freedom to respectfully ask you that question. Then you had a choice to make. You made your decision and communicated it to me. ?Do I like your decision: No. ?Do I expect more from a Brother: Yes.

?Did I expect a third blog to pick up our little quibbling story and use our names: No. ?Is it within the “fair use” law to do so: yes. ?Does it make it biblically right: no.

Blessings!

20 Mark December 22, 2011 at 10:07 am

Ron,

I’m sorry. My intention was not to make you the topic of this thread, but to use the situation as an example to ask others how they would react. I have added a clarification at the bottom of the post. Just so you know this was my idea and Jared had nothing to do with it.

So folks, let’s not make this about Ron and Jared, but let’s focus on the issue. Thanks!

21 Jared Moore December 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Ron, I request that you not request for me not to quote you. Will you make a personal decision to honor my request?

22 Ron Hale December 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Jared,

Yes, I just made it … I promise that I will not ask you to freely decide such a thing again.

By the way, I truly wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. I hope that 2012 … brings a multitude of Blessings!

Mark — all in all … I really liked your title … it brought back memories of the “tase” — don’t tase me bro!

23 Dave Miller December 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm

I’m not sure what I would do if someone made that request of me. However, in principle, I think that if you want your thoughts private, you need to keep them private. If you put a thought in the public domain its public.

If someone sent me an email or we talked on the phone, I would get their permission before I published it. But that which is on a public blog is public information. I would copy and quote without guilt.

In short, I don’t think Jared did anything untoward by refusing that request.

.

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