Irregular nouns: Fair use and libel

It would appear to be one of those irregularly-inflected nouns that I was not previously aware of.

When Paul Routledge of Landlord References quotes (word-for-word) an entire article from the Edinburgh Tenants Action Group website, he defends his doing so

“Those is the rules – if I quote you and if you don’t like it don’t write it!”

When other people quote things Paul Routledge has said, in broadcast media or on Twitter, this is (according to him) libel.

It began with an article written for EPTAG: Can You Trust Your Landlord With Your Personal Details?:

Of the three sites featured on You and Yours, Landlord Referencing is probably the least invasive one, as it keeps a list of the tenant’s previous landlords so that they can be contacted, rather than an address history. However, it’s still a little creepy, particularly as it specialises in what creator Paul Routledge calls “lifestyle referencing”, and is designed to send out notifications to members when someone who has been identified as a “problematic tenant” is moving house.

The issue here is that the definition of a “problematic tenant”, and whether their lifestyle is considered to be objectionable, can be highly subjective. What about the tenant who inconvenienced their landlord by insisting that repairs were carried out, or took them to small claims court over a deposit that had been unfairly withheld? There are some landlords who would consider that to be “problematic”, and giving them the power to harm the tenant’s reputation for years afterwards would unfairly punish an innocent person.

See, that’s how you do it: a fair use quote, credit the source, move on. Everyone knows this.

Paul Routledge took the entire 800-word article for his website, and when it was taken down after the author protested, put it right back up again, and told the author she was “libelling” him when she complained.

I wonder how often he’s done this before?

Follows his defense of his behaviour – and his attitude to being quoted – in Storify.

I’ve been a landlord; I’ve rented accommodation: I’ve agented a friend’s flat and we had our share of “problem tenants” and I’ve had my share of “problem landlords”. Dialogue between landlords and tenants is useful, but it’s not best accomplished by copyright infringment, publication without consent of the author, and a brutal, bullying attitude towards disagreement.

I note that insults, accusations, and threats of legal action, used to silence the assertion of a person’s legal rights is awfully reminiscent of some of the worst landlords I’ve ever heard of.

—Update, 8:33pm

By five-thirty (several hours after blocking me) Paul Routledge had very sensibly changed his use of the EPTAG article to a quote, a link back to the original, and had removed the EPTAG logo from the Landlord References website.

TextualLimits tweeted:

Folks, we have a partial success. @Paul_Rout is no longer displaying the full text of my article or the EPTAG logo on his company website

Storify story updated.


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