Open Source Media Copyright

A commenter at Ann Althouse points out the copyright notice at Open Source Media (nee’ Pajamas Media):

2. Our Site and all its contents, which includes, but is not limited to, text, graphics, photographs, logos, video and audio content, is protected by copyright as a collective work or compilation under the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. All individual components of Our Site, including, without limitation, articles, content and other elements comprising Our Site are also copyrighted works. Additionally all of the weblogs linked to by us are likewise protected. You must abide by all additional copyright notices or restrictions contained on this site and our linked weblogs.

3. You may not reproduce, distribute, copy, publish, enter into any database, display, modify, create derivative works, transmit, or in any way exploit any part of this site. The only exceptions to this are that you may download material from Our Site for your own personal use, provided such download is limited to making one machine readable copy and/or one print copy that limited to occasional articles of personal interest only. No other use of the content of Our Site is permitted. Please contact our Sales Department if you wish to have rights other than those stated above.

It’s pretty funny that a site calling itself “Open Source” seemingly wants to protect itself from pretty much any use of the material on the site. This is doubly true of a policy that would seem in direct contravention of the entire concept of blogging in that most of us liberally quote our sources in order to advance the discussion.

It’s also rather ironic given that someone else already owns the name “Open Source Media.” One of the owners or employees, Brendan, writes:

Hm. A company that used to call itself Pajamas Media now calls itself Open Source Media, which is — scroll down to our legal notice — kind of exactly what we call ourselves. They’ve collected $3.5 million in venture capital, and, to celebrate their re-naming of our already-named name, they’re holding an event at the Rainbow Room.

So what to do. A couple of blogs — Atrios, Stephen den Beste, Dennis the Peasant, Begging to Differ, Homocon — have picked up on this already, unprompted, perhaps because if you Google “open source media”, we’re the third result. Presumably the new “Open Source Media” Googled their new name before they settled on it?

Don’t get us wrong; we didn’t invent the idea of working with bloggers to make media, we certainly didn’t invent the concept “open source,” and there’s plenty of room for everyone to do what we’ve been doing. But they chose the same name that we established in May and, seeing as how we work in the same industry, people might find that a little confusing. And that has us puzzled.

Bill Nienhuis, too.

Bloggers, established bloggers, who have like, you know, used the Internet for a long time, who (in many cases) own their own domain names, seemingly forgot to simply ‘Google’ the name ‘Open Source Media’ before they registered and decided to brand themselves with a previously claimed identifier.

Rather odd, I must admit.

Interestingly, “Open Source Media” has been a term applied to the blogosphere for quite some time. The same Google search that reveals the existence of the above sites reveals a Business Week article from June 2003 on blogs entitled, “The Wild World of ‘Open-Source Media’.”

Also, Marc Cantor and J.D. Lasica launched something called the “Open Source Media Project” in August 2004. Both are bloggers but the project is only loosely related to blogging.

There’s even an Open Source Media Manifesto in the Internet Archive. It’s undated but “propose[s] to use the US Presidential Election of 2004 as a target platform.”

Update (1127): Steven Taylor points to this new “weird disclaimer” at OSM on this subject:

We are OSM. A gentleman named Christopher Lydon has an excellent web site called Open Source. He uses that as his corporate name, but not as his trade name. His URL is RADIOopensource, and he’s given up — which we and our lawyers confirmed before we chose our name.

His trade name is Open Source — and Open Source alone. He’s filed a trademark application under Open Source alone, not Open Source Media.

Our trade name is OSM, and please note that we have a TM after OSM, not after Open Source Media. We consider Open Source Media to be a description of what we are and do, not a trade name.

There are virtually no corporate names that have not been taken in some state — but what is important is the name used in the public.

We own but we are not using that as our primary URL because we do not consider Open Source Media to be protectable name by anyone … which is why it’s not our name.

Hmm. Their site name–including that entered into the title tag at the top of the site–is “Open Source Media.” Their logo has the words “Open Source Media” prominently displayed. But its not their name? WTF?*

Interestingly, though this very minor controversy over their name errupted only yesterday afternoon, they have gone back and changed virtually everything on the site to say merely OSM. I’m guessing their lawyers are right–“Open Source Media” is sufficiently generic as not to be trademarkable–but they were certainly using “Open Source Media” rather than “OSM” in all their release information, media publicity, and the website yesterday.

Update (1158): In OSM’s defense, I will note that the big AP article that ran yesterday morning did in fact refer to them as “OSM — short for Open Source Media.” I didn’t think anything unusual about that when I read it then; indeed, it didn’t register at all.

*Disclaimer: Just some random letters–not to be confused with an obscene interrogatory using those initials.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    The celebration was premature.
    Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

  2. McGehee says:

    re search n. An activity that helps keep people from making really stupid mistakes.

  3. It’s been 24 hours. I wonder when they will spell Houston right. 😉

  4. Karl says:

    Their launch press release (still there) says:

    Pajamas Media Goes “Open Source,” Flips Switch on New Online Venture

    At New York City Launch Event

    Bloggers Unite Under New “Open Source Media” Moniker

    as New Site is Unveiled; Event to be Audiocast Live

    EL SEGUNDO, Calif. and NEW YORK, Nov. 16, 2005
    – OSMTM (Open Source Media), a new online venture designed to bring together top online writers, journalists and commentators under a single umbrella, officially debuts today at a New York City launch event that features a discussion on the future of blogging and journalism, details on the company’s content and the official launch of the new portal to the best of the blogosphere.

  5. jpe says:

    Hm. Maybe they just thought open source sounded “edgy” or something.

  6. Anderson says:

    I can think of several vulgar candidates for what OSM might stand for …