David Carr of the Nytimes says yes, they did:
“Publishing a PDF of somebody else’s work is the exact opposite of fair use: these sites engaged in a replication of a static electronic document with no links to the publication that took the risk, commissioned the work and came up with a story that tilted the national conversation. The technical, legal term for what they did is, um, stealing.”
Rather than rebut Mr. Carr’s Class A Misdemeanor allegation, I would like to ask the following questions?
1. If Time had published the article in HTML or plain text format, would that have made a difference to Mr. Carr?
2. If Time had linked to Rolling Stone, would that have made a difference to Mr. Carr?
3. Did Time’s knowing decision to commit a breach of current United States copyright laws further the public good?
4. Isn’t a PDF the most harmless way of reproducing an article by another publication, since it prevents readers without significant technical difficulty and time to reproduce excerpts?
5. Once the article was leaked, what was the responsibility of Rolling Stone to the United States people and the world to publish the article online?
6. Is not the long term benefit to Rolling Stone of immediate distribution of the article by everyone far greater than print sales of the one issue that might have been generated?