Yet Another Plan To Change Copyright Law To Protect Newspapers

from the please,-someone,-think-this-through dept

Last week, we wrote about Judge Posner’s troubling idea that copyright law should be changed to protect newspapers, and this week, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer is backing the same basic idea as proposed by two brothers, David and Daniel Marburger. One is a First Amendment lawyer and the other an economist — and I’m stunned that both would get things so backwards. Their specific proposal is that:

  • Aggregators would reimburse newspapers for ad revenues associated with their news reports.
  • Injunctions would bar aggregators’ profiting from newspapers’ content for the first 24 hours after stories are posted.

Both are incredibly shortsighted and backwards and would do significantly more harm than good. Both are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how news and the internet works. Even more amusing? They try to “anticipate the rebuttal” and get that totally wrong, claiming that people will complain: “Newspapers want to monopolize the truth.”

No. That’s not the complaint at all. The problem is much more basic than that. It’s that newspapers (and the Marburgers, apparently) are confused about how people communicate and what business they’re in. They think — incorrectly — that newspapers are in the business of delivering the news. But that’s just a small part of it. They’re really in the business of building a community of folks, who they then sell to advertisers. As such, they need to be doing two things, both of which this plan makes harder:

  • They need to provide more value to their community, so they stick around
  • They need to attract more people to their community

Now go back and look at the Marburgers’ plan, and realize how backwards it is. It takes away value from the community by making it harder for those in the community to share and spread the news themselves — a vital part of how people interact with the news these days. And just how do you define an “aggregator”? If someone Twitters a link to a news story… does Twitter become an aggregator? On top of that, barring others from “profiting” off the news for 24 hours simply limits the ability of others to help newspapers get more traffic.

Of course, in the meantime, Jay Rosen points us to Josh Young’s analysis of what would almost certainly happen if newspapers could block others from linking to them. It’s essentially what we’ve suggested in the past: if you give short-sighted and clueless newspapers the tools to block others from sending them traffic, that just opens wide the market for their smarter competitors to gladly accept all that traffic. Hell, it appears that Reuters recognizes the future. The folks there must be salivating over the idea that others would lock up their content and leave the playing field wide open to Reuters to scoop up all that traffic.

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Comments on “Yet Another Plan To Change Copyright Law To Protect Newspapers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It would be the final blow, as people being people would route around the embargo and use first hand reports from average people instead. That would cut out both reporters and their newspapers. What’s funny is that CNN would probably have the market all to itself then (unless google decides to go ahead and accept live reports from average citizens on the scene.) That’s really smart (not).

Anonymous Coward says:

There really seems to be a lot of confusion as to what most news aggregators do. The column points to “reprinting or rewriting” stories, but how many places actually do that? I’m sure there are a lot of domain squatters that just copy content from other websites, but that doesn’t seem to be who they’re talking about. Of course, who they’re talking about appears to always be Google. And Google News does not work the way they seem to think it does.

And this line:

“Aggregators would reimburse newspapers for ad revenues associated with their news reports.”

reimburse? Since Google sends the person to their site, how is there any loss of revenue that needs to be reimbursed? And the sad part is that the media laps all this stuff up because they’re incapable of looking at themselves with the same investigative eye that they seem to value so much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Here’s a way to look at it: if the surfer would have gone in the front page of the news site, and seen 3 – 5 pages, there is a certain amount of revenue.

If Google aggregates the content and sends the user directly to the news page, google got 3 – 5 page views and the news site got 1.

So if a Google refered surfer visits less pages than a general public or front page visitor, then there is a loss of page views due to aggregation.

kirillian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

That only works if the person is an already dedicated surfer who pulls the newspaper’s webpage up every morning because it’s his/her favorite news source…everyone else tends to see news through aggregation and/or searching of some type.

You can’t look at Grandma’s surf habits and assume they apply to most of the rest of the population…she’s gonna die in about 5 years…you have to look at the younger population’s habits…and they start from the social networking sites and branch out from there, or from igoogle or something else that aggregates.

Anonymous Coward says:

Can a HBO Logo be put on a flag? Can current events, pictures and culture be remixed into a form of art without fear of infringement?

Can someone do a better job at summarizing, writing, and still be sued by hundreds of copyright owners, not for the fact that it is better (Which is probably why they got sued in the first place), but for pure ego, and the fact that they are able to create a new emotion or further a community?

Can someone create something you couldn’t ever do because you live within the unfortunate realm of copyright?

The Latchkey kid will figure it out.

Thomas (profile) says:

Let them try this

Ok, so suppose the newspaper manages to find a way such that the only way to access the newspaper’s content is to first go to their home page, thus making it impossible for anyone to link to a story. then watch their traffic numbers go down the drain.

If you heard about a story and had to start out by going to the home page then hunting for the story would you bother?

Steven (profile) says:

Re: Let them try this

“Ok, so suppose the newspaper manages to find a way such that the only way to access the newspaper’s content is to first go to their home page,”

This really astounds me. Let me clear something up for you. It is ridiculously easy for any site to control access to any page through any number of criteria. This kind of thing is built into any modern web server. The argument of “We don’t want people to link directly to our pages” holds no water at all, because they have complete control over that. What they want is to be paid by people sending them traffic, but that can’t say that as we’d all see just how ridiculous it is.

zaven (profile) says:

Better Comments

Anyone know of a single newspaper with a decent comments section? I haven’t found one. Most of the blogs I read are only because they have an RSS feed. Only time I click through to the actual page is when the topic is one which interests me and I’d like to see what other readers think. Newspapers, are you listening? Maybe if you allowed more people to read your news and comment on it, they’d actually come to your site.

Dan says:

The newspapers worked extremely hard digging their hole to its present depth. I am in no way responsible for their narrow minded bad judgment nor rescue for that matter. I won’t do CPR on someone that jumped off a 20 story building, because they obviously wanted to die, or supply any bailout to an industry that gleefully screwed me for 50 years, then bragged about earnings and market share. like there was any real competition. Well now there is real competition and that, according to them, is somehow unfair. There used to be antitrust rules about news conglomerates owning broadcast media but Bush’s FCC killed that and any newspaper with a nickels worth of credit owns as many as they can. Apparently that is not enough, a glutton cannot satisfy his appetite. There are millions of manufacturing workers that were told to adapt to the new economy realities, its time the newspaper industry follow their own advice and take their own medicine.

Anonymous Coward says:

If I was Google, I would tell all the newspapers that if they say again that Google is a freeloader, profiteering on their contact, that they will gladly stop doing so, and remove them from their aggregators, additionally, they will remove them from their search index, so that people don’t give Google any revenue for the privilege of linking to the main sites of said newspapers.

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