I really don’t have anything new to add to the discussions that have been going on all over WordPress.com and elsewhere about the new “Like/Reblog” utility that was introduced this week other than to say that besides the legitimate copyright and fair use concerns this utility raises, in my opinion there was a total misunderstanding, even mishandling, by WordPress.com to the reaction by concerned users.
It is correct that U.S. Copyright law allows use of a portion of a copyrighted work for “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research” without the permission of the copyright holder.* “Fair Use” is balanced by four factors which mitigate what is considered “Fair Use” of a particular work. (For what it’s worth, CC Licenses are not covered by “Fair Use” but rather by the license chosen and its provisions.) The argument by WordPress.com that the “Like/Reblog” utility does nothing more than allow WordPress.com users to auto-post a snippet and cite another WordPress.com blog in a manner consistent with “Fair Use” may or may not be technically correct, but it’s missing the point. The issue now is about perceived control of one’s content and its dissemination. (Please see my comment below.)