Because The Mainstream Press Never Copies Stories From Bloggers Without Credit…
from the parasites? dept
We’ve been hearing all sorts of stories recently about how aggregators and blog sites are apparently “parasites” on “real” newspaper reporting. For example, the CEO of News Limited (a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.) just went on a nice little rant against bloggers, claiming that blogs are “barely discernible from massive ignorance.” In fact, the idea that blogs are somehow “parasitic” to “real journalism” has been around for years.
Because of this, we’re suddenly seeing a revival of the nearly dormant concept of a “hot news” protection, that would forbid other publications from “profiting” from a news source that has a hot scoop. We’re seeing proposals to ban even paraphrasing the news from a source that breaks it or making profits from a story broken by someone else.
So, surely, a mainstream newspaper would never “parasite” a story from a blog without giving credit, right? We’ve already joked that newspapers (by their own definition) are simply parasites of the people who actually make the news they cover, but newspapers have a long history of getting their stories from other publications and rarely given credit.
To be clear: beyond common courtesy, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, and I’m calling out the following example not because I think the LA Times did something wrong. I just find it amusing that at a time when so many insist that it’s the ugly mass of “bloggers” who “parasite” stories from the professional reporters, that we see the opposite. Last week, I believe I was the first publication to write about Yahoo, Microsoft and RealNetworks getting sued by MCS Music over failure to license composition rights on a bunch of songs those companies offered via their music services. That story was sent to me by Eric Goldman — who I believe sent it to some others as well. A few other online only publications wrote about the story and credited my post, which was nice.
And then, the LA Times wrote about it, calling it an important lawsuit. Now, there are many different places where the LA Times and its reporter Jon Healey could have found that story. Others may have sent it to Healey. He may have been watching the legal filings himself. Eric Goldman (who sent it to me) could have sent it to him as well. But… what’s interesting is that in describing the case, Healey links to the version of the filing that I, personally, uploaded to document hosting site Scribd for the purpose of including it in the Techdirt post. That suggests, pretty strongly (and I’m willing to find out otherwise) that Healey found out about the lawsuit on Techdirt (I know that Healey has read the site in the past, though that doesn’t mean he still reads it).
Now — again, since this will be misinterpreted — I have no problem whatsoever if Healey did find out about it on Techdirt and if he then wrote about it and decided not to link to Techdirt as credit for where he found it. I’m not complaining about it. It’s a neighborly thing to do, but certainly not a big deal in the long run. I just found the fact that this appears to be what happened rather amusing, given the claims of so many that it’s the blogs who “parasite” the pros, when it appears that the opposite happens sometimes too. If some of these proposals that are floating around ever got anywhere, I could argue that the LA Times was unfairly profiting off of my “scoop.” That would, of course, be ridiculous, but that’s the sort of world we’ll live in if those who are trying to jump on the “hot news” bandwagon get their way.
And that is the important point. News is news. Facts are facts. No one owns either. A lawsuit is just a lawsuit and if anyone wants to write about it however they want to write about it, they should be able to do so. To claim that whoever wrote about it first somehow gets to “own” the story or reserve all the “profits” from it — whether it’s by a newspaper, a new media publication or some individual — is simply pointless.
And, the newspaper folks who are pushing for such rules might want to remember that it’s just as likely to come back and bite them if such laws were passed.