I am filing this under humor, specifically ‘inanity defense’. The explanation Anthony Watts has invented for his attempt to yank Peter Sinclair’s video off YouTube is the funniest thing you’re ever going to read – assuming of course you don’t read the laughable stuff that passes for “analysis” on WattsUpWithThat every day [see “Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS)“]. ClimateProgress also has an exclusive interview from Sinclair on Watts and his wildly inappropriate attack on Sinclair’s family.

When we last left the former TV meteorologist and top anti-scientific blogger, his nonexistent knowledge of copyright laws had failed to stop the world from seeing Sinclair’s video (see The video that Anthony Watts does not want you to see: The Climate Denial “Crock of the Week”). Thursday, Watts offered what might be called the “I have no friggin’ clue what I’m talking about but I am the world’s biggest hypocrite” defense for his failed censorship in a post with the unintentionally accurate headline, “On Climate, Comedy, Copyrights, and Cinematography.”

To understand the inanity defense, first take a moment to watch the video Watts is afraid of:

Yes, Watts actually claims that Sinclair has committed copyright infringement because “in the video Mr. Sinclair produced and posted on YouTube, I noticed that he did in fact use photographs and graphics from my published book “Is The U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?”.” If Watts wants to claim authorship of a ‘book’ on his resume that is in fact a 31-page PDF ‘published’ by that world-class publishing house The Heartland Institute (!) and posted for free, well, heck, this is the age of resume padding and vanity presses.

But Watts is going to have a hard time convincing any judge that the reproduction of a small amount of material from a PDF given away for free on the Internet hurts the “the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work,” one of the four factors considered in lawsuits over the fair use doctrine, “codified by the Copyright Act of 1976 as 17 U.S.C. § 107,” which “permits some copying and distribution without permission of the copyright holder or payment to same.” Given how little material Sinclair used and the “transformative” nature of the work – he used it as part of a critical analysis – the whole notion that there was any copyright infringement here would lead any court to the simple summary judgment “ROTFLMAO.”

Watts would know that if he spent as much time on Wikipedia researching copyright law as he did investigating Sinclair and his family. Since Watts’ ignorance of copyright laws rivals his ignorance of climate science, he actually and seriously and literally posted this must-read explanation on WattsUpWithThat without a trace of irony:

But since he had used that © symbol, Mr. Sinclair demonstrated awareness of copyright protections, having availed himself of them, e.g., here, right below his own artwork.

With knowledge of this and ad hominem attacks made on me personally, I reasonably presumed his copyright violation on my part was likely intentional. I also figured that this might be a teachable moment, as I was still thinking this is a kid just out of college since there seems to be no business website for Greenman studio in operation yet, it is still “under construction”.


And, I mused, by bringing the copyright issue to his attention, I’d probably be doing him a favor, since I surmised he’d be at risk for using the film clips. I figured anybody working a business out of a house without an operating web page probably can’t afford licensing fees. No deep pockets there. I certainly have no personal beef with Mr. Sinclair, it is just the copyright issue.

But my copyright had been ignored, with evidence that Mr. Sinclair as a publisher himself using the © symbol understands copyrights, and WB’s copyright also looked like it also had been ignored. And well, lets face it, he got the facts wrong about the project and never contacted or interviewed me to get any facts from my side (more on that later). So it could hardly be defined as “journalism” and the protections that such enterprise affords for “fair use”. So I filled out the form for copyright issues on YouTube, and pressed enter.

“I throw myself on the mercy of the court. I’m inane, I tell you. Pathologically, clinically, inane. I’ve been diagnosed by dozens of experts and they all come to the same conclusion: You must find me not guilty of attempted censorship by reason of inanity.” [Note: Any resemblance between that quote and the writing of any person living or dead is purely coincidental.]

Yes, a man who knows less about copyright laws than your average sidewalk vendor of fake Rolexes thinks he can teach Sinclair about copyright law. Apparently, in Watts’ view of the law, if you don’t contact or interview the copyright holder – and if you get the facts wrong from the perspective of the copyright holder – the “fair use” doctine is null and void.

Seriously. And people actually go to WattsUpWithThat for any reason other than laughs???

Memo to Watts: The fair use doctrine extends well beyond “journalism.” And while I know this is going to come to a shock as someone as scrupulously wrong as you, but journalists sometimes get their facts wrong, they sometimes don’t contact or interview subjects, and they are still afforded fair use protection.

Here is Peter Sinclair’s reponse to Watts in an email interview with CP:

I set out in the video quite deliberately to puncture Mr. Watt’s pomposity and sense of self importance, hoping, frankly, that I might get a rise out of him. His reaction pretty much confirmed that my psychological profiling was dead on.

Readers have sent myriad examples of Watts’ hypocrisy when it comes to copyright laws and standard journalistic practice. Two seem worth mentioning.

twit3.gifFirst, Watts has repeatedly reprinted and defended TVMOB (aka The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley – a famous anti-scientific denier who is most certainly not depicted in the figure on the right). Yet TVMOB is guilty of the most extreme copyright infringement – posting an unpublished article without permission of the author (see Rabett Run).

Second, WattsUpWithThat reposted part of a Chicago Tribune article here – see Pachauri: “Skeptics are flat earthers.” Notice that the title of the Tribune piece is “Blunt answers about risks of global warming” by Michael Hawthorne. But apparently Watts thinks it is totally fine to take a copyrighted story and repost it with a completely different headline, “PERSON OF INTEREST RAJENDRA PACHAURI” – a fake headline that he ascribes directly to the original author!

This is standard operating procedure for Watts, who has no regard whatsoever for the integrity of the written or spoken word. Consider that Pachauri did NOT say what Watts claims he said in the headline, as the excerpted interview shows:

Q: What do you think about the small but vocal group of doubters still out there

Pachauri: There is, even today, a Flat Earth Society that meets every year to say the Earth is flat. The science about climate change is very clear. There really is no room for doubt at this point.

Does Watts believe it is legitimate to ascribe a direct quote to somebody that they never said?

Watts is the last person in the blogosphere who should be offering anybody a “teachable moment” on copyright laws. The teachable moment is for you, Anthony.

Finally, in the department of “making things up egregiously and inappropriately,” let’s go back to Watts’ inanity defense:

He [Sinclair] is not a college student, though he has a son who is of college age, a nice Ron Paul supporter, I am told from someone who has met him. His rather conservative son, contrasts the rather left-wing eco-activist ad hominem and rhetorically unrestrained father (see here). It is almost humorous greeting card-worthy, this role reversal.

So now Watts has stooped to investigating the children of people he has disputes with? Scary stuff. And not just investigating them but publishing untrue hearsay attacks on them. Sure, relatives who are public figures and who are in at least a somewhat related field can be fair game (see “Like father, like son: Roger Pielke Sr. also doesn’t understand the science of global warming – or just chooses to willfully misrepresent it“). But what does Sinclair’s son have to do with anything Sinclair has done?

While trying to protect as much as possible the privacy of Sinclair’s son, after a back-and-forth with his father, here is what Sinclair says about his son:

He’s an Obama-voting organic farmer who has worked on mucking out Katrina-blasted towns.

He and I are are both deeply “conservative” in the sense that we both feel since there’s only one planet, maybe we should err on the side of caution in caring for it.

So much for Watt’s skill as a detective.

Perhaps in addition to brushing up on copyright laws, Watts should study the libel laws or at least the minimal standards of blogging etiquette.

In any case, I think Watts can safely count on a winning verdict with his inanity defense – as long as he gets a jury of his peers or, rather British peers.

UPDATE: Watts is still whining today in the first sentence of a new post that Sinclair “infringed on my copyright.” Waaaah!