Today’s Journalism Lesson? Fade to Black

There is a long list of people who Teri Buhl, self-proclaimed investigative journalist, says she’s going to sue. It looks like she’ll have to add one more to the list.  The problem started when her public twitter profile stated that her twits were not for publication. It headed south from there.

Mark Bennett started the ball rolling after  Gideon engaged Buhl on twitter to find out what the heck she thought she was doing by claiming her twits were “protected.” Tim Cushing picked it up at Techdirt, which angered Buhl sufficiently that she demanded a retort, including an absurd smack at Bennett for using the story on his blog “to promote his business,” because, you know, why else would a lawyer blog?.

But Cushing wasn’t prompt enough to satisfy Buhl, so he asked  Jim Romenesko to publish it instead. Mike Masnick at  Techdirt then ripped her a new one, after which Buhl let everyone know, including  Romenesko who did her a solid, that they were all getting sued.


The reaction to Buhl has not been kind. Rather than hum a few bars of Mrs. Robinson, pretty much everybody has responded that she’s utterly nuts, and her efforts to salvage her shredded dignity have only gotten her into deeper trouble. She’s posted various comments to other people’s posts, regaling about her greatness as an investigative “jurno” and how she’s beloved by her fans. The fans have yet to appear to back her up, but they’re probably too busy rereading her old articles from when she had a job to waste their time.

All this is a preface to the reason why I hop aboard this out-of-control train.  As others took note of the wreck, they included the initial screen shot of Teri Buhl’s twitter bio, the one that she created and put on twitter for her adoring fans to know who she was and what they could do with her twits.  It included an image of the “jurno” herself as part the bio.

See that sweet yet professional picture of a woman above the name Teri Buhl? Buhl says you’re not allowed. At least not here, because it’s her picture and she hasn’t given me permission to public it. You see, according to the Buhl doctrine of copyright, it’s her picture and nobody can use it. Kinda like her twits, but different.

That it’s part of the subject at issue means nothing. Fair use doesn’t exist under the Buhl Doctrine.  Ironically, she is apparently unaware that  Antonin Pribetic has copyrighted the letter “B,” and is no doubt preparing a complaint as I type. She did not get his permission to use it, like I did.

Which finally brings me to the point of this post.  The  Knight Center for Journalism in America at the University of Texas, Austin, posted about this hotmess, including initially the screenshot above. And then came Buhl’s copyright complaint:

Update 02/07/13: Freelance reporter Teri Buhl contacted the Knight Center and requested the pictures in her Twitter profile be removed from the story, stating that the images are copyrighted and the Knight Center – along with the journalism websites and – do not have permission to publish them. The Knight Center has removed the photos from the screenshot from her Twitter account per her request.

Fade to black.  This is the lesson for budding journalists in Austin.  Capitulate. Somebody complains? Screams “copyright”!  Fade to black.  Don’t say no. Don’t react with a chuckle and passing mention of fair use. Don’t teach students that a “jurno” doesn’t succumb to threats, no matter how absurd and contrary to the law. Nope. Fade to black. It’s so much easier and less risky.  Journalists wouldn’t want to take any risks, after all.

Buhl offers a laundry list of absurd explanations for her bizarre actions, which have given rise to no shortage of hilarity.  But the treatment received at the hands of the Knight School isn’t funny.  In fairness, they aren’t the only ones to wimp out, with  Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman showing a similar lack of spine.  But then, he’s not charged with teaching the next generation of journalists why they’re deserving of First Amendment protection.

While all of this might well strike us, as lawyers, as utterly ridiculous, given that we would expect those engaged in journalism to have at least a working knowledge of the law as it applies to them, it apparently isn’t the case for those who teach it.  Are they clueless?  Do they not use “fair use” in Austin?

Maybe they just offer professional courtesy to Buhl, as one of the tribe, even though they realize that there is no legal impediment whatsoever to the screenshot of her twitter bio, as the core of the story about her insane claim of unpublishable twits.  But if so, then the message to students is be bold when it comes to revealing the awful truth about others, but when it comes to one of our own, fade to black?  This would be too cynical even for me to believe,

So if it’s not hypocritical circling the wagons as a courtesy to one of their own (whether with or without free donuts), then it’s just plain old capitulation.  Not a good lesson for the next generation of a group upon whom we depend for our information, knowledge and understanding of what is happening in our world.  All the news that’s fit to print, unless someone tells them not to and threatens them with a lawsuit. Then, fade to black.


16 comments on “Today’s Journalism Lesson? Fade to Black

  1. NT

    Perhaps they are just protecting their own. But is there any evidence that Ms. Buhl is actually a “jurno” as she puts it? Articles under her byline? Anything like that?

  2. David

    Now I see why you don’t like links. 404’ed on me.

    Aside from that, UTexas at Austin is a state university – I bet if you asked the legislature how they’d like journalism taught, this would be a shining example of excellent journalism.

  3. Teri Buhl

    I currently get paid to report for MarketNexus Media who publishes a finance trade publication called Growth Capitalist, I also get paid to freelance for BitCcin Magazine and anyone else I sell stories to. Which Scott would know if he’d done a little research and gone to my about page [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.] a news publication I own and report at.

    I’d like to see Scott break down a legal explanation of ‘fair use’ and how he thinks it applies to being able to use my copyrighted photo without my permission.

  4. SHG

    It’s fascinating that you’re still running around the internet digging the hole deeper. I’ve learned more about you than I cared to, about your being fired from Hearst, your disclosure of your boyfriend’s daugher’s private diaries, about your upcoming criminal trial.

    As for your liking to see me break down a legal explanation of fair use, wrong question. As you run around threatening to sue everybody in sight, the burden is on you.  And the only thing you’ve demonstrated thus far is that you are fundamentally ignorant of the law. Has the universal condemnation of your bizarre antics done anything to quiet the voices in your head? 

    That’s what I would like to know. Looking forward to it.

    Edit: By the way, I would be happy to explain  fair use to you. But I get paid to give legal advice.

  5. Joe Pullen

    I expect her digging to hit escape velocity shortly. She’s had all of the reasons she is wrong about this already explained to her numerous times on other blogs but she simply doesn’t want to hear it.

  6. SHG

    It’s a jurno 101 trick, shift the question to the other person to get them talking. She’s just not very good at it.

  7. Antonin I. Pribetic

    Dear Ms. Teri Buhl:

    As Scott has mentioned in his post, I have asserted copyright and my moral rights over the use of the letter “B” ©, including lowercase “b”.©

    Your comment includes the following words that contain the letter “B” ©
    -publication (x2)

    Pursuant to s.38.1 of the Copyright Act,R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42, I hereby demand compensation in the form of payment of statutory damages for your egregious breaches.

    I will accept as recompense, in the alternative, that you seriously consider the Streisand Effect and stop all of this nonsense, once and for all.

  8. Turk

    It’s a jurno 101 trick, shift the question to the other person to get them talking.

    Oh please. You are giving her way too much credit. If she can’t look up the basics of fair use — as a journalist, no less where this is required as basic knowledge — she certainly isn’t capable of a “trick.”

  9. Turk

    By the way, the Knight Center for Journalism reminds me of the St. Thomas School of law settling a certain lawsuit despite the fact they had zero liability.

    The things they teach kids these days.

  10. G Thompson

    Wow if Teri Keeps this up she will likely end up getting a public letter of support from that other batshit crazy ‘investigative’ blogger/jurno. In CAPITALS no less as well

  11. Alex Bunin

    Never mind. I have a “B” in my name and have thus violated Antonin’s copyright. Send him my check.

  12. John Neff

    There were two violations so two checks are needed. Avoiding the use of the second letter is a interesting exercise.

  13. ShelbyC

    It appears that Bennett has responded as well, cropping the image so that only the relevant portion is displayed.

Comments are closed.