Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
17 November 2005
Kotaku, Best Buy, Leaks, and Valerie Plame
The use of leaked information is at the heart of one of the biggest stories in American politics in years: the publication of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity and the subsequent indictment of I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, for committing perjury (among other crimes) in the investigation of the leak.

Leaks are a slippery subject, but as long as they are legitimate, something a source and journalist should address together, their use in the press is proper. (What Novak should have done is a debate for another place and time.) Once the information is out, journalists should be free to report. If the information is in the public's interest, then in fact they are probably obligated to report.

What does this have to do with videogames?

Well, popular blog Kotaku published several stories based on a leaked document from Best Buy. As a result, Best Buy threatened them wtih legal action, in part based on a claim of copyright for the leaked document. While I think the copyright argument is bogus, I'm bothered by the stifling of reporting. What Kotaku engaged in what appears, at first glance, to be a clearly journalistic enterprise.

Kotaku caved in and took the stories offline. I understand why, but I wish it weren't so. Not that it matters: the information is still out there, and will continue to be out there. In fact, it will probably be published more widely because it has been threatened.

Best Buy, already a frequent target of scorn, is clearly a villain. They lost control of their information. Once that happens, you cannot -- and should not -- try to stop it. Kotaku was clearly serving in a journalistic role and should be treated with the same respect as if the New York Times or the Washington Post had reported on the leaked documents. The freedom of the press from undue influence, from both the government and any corporation, should be a basic part of our world.

Years after AOL and its ilk opened the internet to the unwashed masses, we're finally seeing the rise of a class of citizen reporter. We are just now coming to terms with that fact, and should understand that bloggers and in fact any Joe with a website can receive and publish leaked information and thereby act as a citizen reporter.

Best Buy needs to realize this. They're not alone, regrettably, for much of the established media outlets are just now feeling the power of several thousand freelance reporters (aka bloggers) publishing every minute of the day.

But Best Buy should be an example to everyone who doesn't yet get it. If I could call a boycott, I would. The best I can do, however, is to tell everyone I know about this story and to urge them to contact Best Buy online or in person and tell them to respect the freedom of the press.

Blogger or not, someone reporting news is part of the press. Respect that, or be reviled.

Update: Just saw this timely story over on DailyKos: FEC Says Blogs Are Just as Much "Press" as Everyone Else. So, Best Buy should ask themselves "Would we be sending amateur lawyer letters to The New York Times over this?"
--Matt Matthews at 18:39
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