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.