Professor Says News Should Get Special 24 Hour Protections So No Aggregator Can Link To It

from the um.-what? dept

We’ve seen all sorts of really bizarre and downright dangerous plans to change copyright law to favor newspapers, but a new one, posted at Henry Blodget’s Business Insider may be the most ridiculous of all. It starts off with a bunch of really bad assumptions, and then suggests special copyright protections for publications against aggregators, including that no one could repost (even fair use reposting) any content from a daily publication for 24-hours or a week for weekly publications:

A first suggestion would be to provide newspaper and other journalistic content special protection, so that no part of any story from any daily periodical could be reposted in an online aggregator, or used online for any use other than commentary on the article, for 24 hours; similarly, no part of any story from any weekly publication could be reposted in an online aggregator or for any use purpose other than commentary, for one week.

This comes from a Wharton operations professor, Eric Clemons, and a lawyer, Nehal Madhani. There are all sorts of problems with this, starting that the whole assumption that “aggregators” are somehow the problem. We’re still trying to figure out what’s wrong with aggregators. Clemons and Madhani insist that Google is somehow a problem:

Using aggregators like Google and others, I can access essentially in real time the lead paragraphs of almost any story from the New York Times, the Washington Post, or indeed any other major news service.

Okay, that leaves out some rather important details. First, those newspapers can very easily block Google News via the magic of robots.txt. Second, if the only value you, as a publisher, provide, is the lead paragraph, then you’re not providing much value and you deserve to go out of business. Third, and most importantly, the whole point of this is that Google News sends those sites tons of traffic. This is why “search engine optimization” is such a huge field today — because most sites want that traffic. To argue that the same traffic is somehow damaging is ridiculous.

But Clemons and Madhani ignore all of that. Instead, they claim that Google News and similar aggregators are why “print media publications are dying.” Except they provide no evidence for that statement, because there is none. Revenue from those publications has been in decline for many years — well before Google and the internet existed. The biggest problem many of the bigger publications faced was taking on ridiculous debt loads. On top of that, most of them failed to provide value to their community, as competitors stepped in to serve those communities. That’s not about aggregators.

The proposal also makes a few other whoppers:

The net is a pretty robust institution by now, and if we were suddenly not able to access articles from the Post (Washington or New York) until they were 24 hours old the net would, indeed, survive. In contrast, big city newspapers are dying from the east coast to the west, and without that change to reuse of newspapers’ content, it actually is not clear that investigative journalism as we know it will survive much longer.

This is hogwash, frankly. There is plenty of new investigative journalism going on, done by institutions who are putting in place smarter business models. Telling aggregators they can’t point people to news for 24 hours (or a week in some cases) is just ridiculous and would do a hell of a lot more harm by effectively hiding stories.

Of course, the most ironic of all of this is that this little bit of pure linkbait is published on BusinessInsider, which is famous for republishing huge chunks of articles from other sources with no commentary whatsoever, and just a link back to the original.

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Comments on “Professor Says News Should Get Special 24 Hour Protections So No Aggregator Can Link To It”

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36 Comments
kyle clements (profile) says:

I've never understood...

Why shouldn’t newspapers die?
Why would that be a bad thing?

The horse-and-buggy and gas-lamp industries took a pretty big hit with the introduction of automobiles and electric lightbulbs, but the world kept on spinning.

The internet does news delivery faster and cheaper, with no real physical limits on article length forcing important details to be edited out, and it wastes less paper and ink.

What reason is their to believe that things will be worse off if progress kills newspapers?

darryl says:

Excellent Idea

Im sick of all the lazy ‘reporters’ that spend their lives trolling ‘real’ reporters, and just parroting them.

How is that ‘independent’ reporting ? how can you get several points of view, if everyone just uses what one person has written ?

Its much better to have the competing news groups, you know actually compete !.

You cant be better, or more informed about a subject if you just use what is allready available.

Otherwise the site just becomes like Techdirt, just a parrot for many other bloggers, with a bit of comment thrown in. Where is the original investigation, or interviews with real people ?

Where is the fact checking, and Journalistic integrity ?

What if the people want more than one opinion ? or what to see the news from serveral different perspecitives ?

A 24 hour delay on aggrigation is a great idea, if its important enough news, its important enough to do your own digging.

And if its not that important, you can wait to re-post it.

It certainly would mean higher quality reporting and independence in news reporting that you do not get if you are DEPENDENT on other sites doing the leg work…

Get off you ass and get your own news, or wait a day, or a week..

reporting the news does not entail trolling the web and google for juicy comments.

And people soon get sick of that kind of ‘reporting’…

All you achieve is a filtering of ‘news’ through your own biases. That is not news, reporting on reporters is what hacks do.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Excellent Idea

Darryl,

Please pull your head out – really, please!

Just for arguments sake- there is a plane crash in a major city – 8 news vans pull up to cover the story.

Who has the rights to the story – first one there? Eeny meeny miny mo? Pick a number between 1 and a 100??

WTF could you possibly be smoking to make such consistent, asinine comments here in a place where you clearly don’t appreciate the format and/or opinion of Mike or the questions he raises?

I’m going to guess you are just a troll, under house arrest left with very few options.

Bapzzy (profile) says:

Re: Excellent Idea

Name one news service that doesn’t depend on other news sources to complete their “independent” story. Journalistic integrity my ass. I’m not sick of Mike’s stories, and am quite addicted to his blog. I started reading TechDirt 3 years ago. You’re wrong, you’ll always be wrong, and the forces at work will bury your silly opinion.
I read all the Google aggregated news and I don’t really care who comes up with the story first, because many times the facts change over time.
The Iraq recruits death toll started at 40 then went to 60 over the course of a day. I’m sure that when the professional journalist read the competing headline with a higher number of casualties, they made the change to their own story.

Anonymous Coward says:

RTFA

The article (and proposed “solution”) is not about 1 newspaper copying another’s story but about attempts to stop aggregators like Goggle News. Have you ever even looked at Google News? Each story has a headline and a 1st paragraph copied from a single news source. Under that are links to 1 or more (sometimes hundreds) original stories. If you want different viewpoints, just read the articles on the event from different papers.

But look at your take on the proposal for a minute. If a plane were to fly into the World Trade Center in NYC, the only way the LA Times could report on it would be to send a reporter and photog to NYC? If the 1st person to report an oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico worked for a podunk town weekly no one else could report on it for a week? How does that make any sense?

While I think Kyle Clements comment on newspapers going out of business misses a few key points about why this would be bad, the general sentiment is right. What’s so special about newspapers that they need to be saved at the expense of bringing more diverse news sources to people. If I were to only get my news from the local paper (LA Times), I’d think that there was no one making movies any more.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: RTFA

The proposal they have made is a little different than what you are suggesting:

“A first suggestion would be to provide newspaper and other journalistic content special protection, so that no part of any story from any daily periodical could be reposted in an online aggregator, or used online for any use other than commentary on the article, for 24 hours; similarly, no part of any story from any weekly publication could be reposted in an online aggregator or for any use purpose other than commentary, for one week”

They are saying SPECIFICALLY that the newspapers are exempt from this and can re-print anything they want. This only limits online posting. So, the NYT could re-print anything they found just like they do now. However, I suppose, they could not post it to their website for a day or a week. Of course, by directly reading their proposal, the original news source could not post it to their own website, so these guys are just dumb to begin with.

B. Nicholson (profile) says:

aggregators enriched, newspapers in decline

Q.E.D. it is the aggregators doing the damage. Just force the big internet aggregators to carry some of the advertising from the paper where they got the story. That might be the fair thing to do. Formulae could be arranged, or some other exchange of information might substitute, even money. If we level the playing field, the market will just sort it out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: automobile manufacturers enriched, buggy manufacturers in decline

Q.E.D. it is the automobile manufacturers doing the damage. Just force the big automobile manufacturers to pull buggies. That might be the fair thing to do. Formulae could be arranged, or some other exchange of information might substitute, even money. If we level the playing field, the market will just sort it out.

The market IS sorting it out. Forcing a business model on a growing sector of the economy and forcing one company to give another company money is not “the market”.

cm6029 (profile) says:

Re: aggregators enriched, newspapers in decline

I’m afraid I don’t see the logic in this suggestion. This would be comparable to early automotive manufactures being required to build cars that drive no faster that horses. Should every gallon of petrol (US gasoline) be taxed to support the buggy whip industry? Perhaps every car driver should have been required to keep a buggy whip (and a bale of hay) in his car for the first year of ownership? I’m sorry, but this makes no sense to me.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Fighting the last war

A lot of this reminds me of the truism that Generals are always getting ready to fight the last war.

These “researchers”, I’m not going to call them academics cause their solution disproves that claim, come up with a something that might have worked in the days before telegraph and news agencies but only just might. It certainly doesn’t work now.

OK, make it the war before the last, then.

Copy has always been rewritten to one extent or the other even by the sainted NYT.

And wouldn’t Google News maybe send readers to The Colorado Backwoods Faller instead of take away from it?

Just asking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Legally?

>> Second, if the only value you, as a publisher, provide, is the lead paragraph, then you’re not providing much value and you deserve to go out of business.

The Law in question does not distinguish between “valuable” or “not valuable” content. You are applying reason to law. Law systems are trying to be internally consistent rather then being reasonable. It is up to the copyright holder to sue the alleged copyright violator.

On the other hand if all the “news papers” go out of business, whom would the aggregators aggregate?

These’s got to be a symbiotic alliance that’s good for both.

Mich (profile) says:

Legally?

>> Second, if the only value you, as a publisher, provide, is the lead paragraph, then you’re not providing much value and you deserve to go out of business.

The Law in question does not distinguish between “valuable” or “not valuable” content. You are applying reason to law. Law systems are trying to be internally consistent rather then being reasonable. It is up to the copyright holder to sue the alleged copyright violator.

On the other hand if all the “news papers” go out of business, whom would the aggregators aggregate?

These’s got to be a symbiotic alliance that’s good for both.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe I’m on some kick ass hallucinogens, but as I recall there’s this thing called The Constitution which guarantees the freedom of press. Any IP protections over a report should be immediately thrown out as unconstitutional. Anyone opposed to the freedom of information is just asking to have the wool pulled over their eyes.

Newspapers were profitable and successful simply because of distribution rights. Once the digital age came into effect they should have realized the natural progression the industry was going to evolve in. Why must ‘we the people’ suffer because they were too slow to adapt to the changes?

And as far as the ridiculous claim that investigative journalism is going to cease outright… you have to just be stupidly ignorant.

Anonymous Coward says:

but the majority of the news comes from the newspapers, and everyone else just links back to it and talks about it, if they are not posting the story, where do you get your news from????????

and please don’t say bloggers, most of them get it from the papers, I don’t read or even know bubbas local street blog exists, to read about a local event on the other side of the country

you need the big papers with the budgets to pay reporters to publish the news you make your whole site out of

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

but the majority of the news comes from the newspaper

Today.

Why does it always have to?

if they are not posting the story, where do you get your news from????????

If newspapers are not covering a story, there is an opportunity for new news organizations to fill the gap.

and please don’t say bloggers, most of them get it from the papers

You are comparing apples to oranges. Some bloggers are journalists. Some are not. Some journalists are bloggers, some are not.

I expect reporting to come from news organizations. That doesn’t necessarily mean newspapers. If there’s a gap in coverage, that’s a market opportunity.

you need the big papers with the budgets to pay reporters to publish the news you make your whole site out of

Need a strong word. Given the number of successful new journalism operations that operate on small budgets and seem to do a wonderful job, it would appear that your statement here is simply wrong.

Danny says:

But Clemons and Madhani ignore all of that. Instead, they claim that Google News and similar aggregators are why “print media publications are dying.

What they fail to understand (or refuse to acknowledge) is that print media is dying because it can no longer compete with other means of spreading the news. 15 years ago the internet was not a real viable way of getting the news to people faster than print media because the internet was not as readily available as it is now. But that the tentacles of the net reach far and wide print media is going to lose out.

The only markets where print media stand a chance against the net will be in rural areas where local events more than likely will never be mentioned on the net. But for big news (like political events, major disasters, major serious crimes) the delay of print media is more than enough time for the word to get out on the net a whole lot faster.

In fact considering that these folks want to impose a 24hr protection period they are literally trying to recreate that old delay. Even when news outlets make a web precence for themselves they know that on even a playing field they stand a chance of not being the one that gets the news to people first. And that scares them. This is not much different from how record studio execs have fought tooth and nail against digital distribution. They know that now that techonology has leveled the paying field they don’t have the advantages they once had and it scares them.

Metroid says:

lol, internet

lol

It’s funny when terms like “journalism”, “facts” and “papers” get thrown together as if there’s any significant correlation between them. Even the concept of news having any measurable value (beyond monetary) is shaky, imho.

I can correlate “papers” with “profit” and “words”, and that’s about it. 😛

All I see is people getting paid to come up with an inapplicable idea, that *seems* logical when:
– they show it on some powerpoint slides with graphs and such.
– when you glance over it, only stopping at words like “special protection”, “copyright” and “papers”.

The kicker to these things, is that they often make these proposals inapplicable on purpose. Getting paid to come up with ideas is fun, but not if you actually have to defend those ideas later on. At that point it becomes *actual work* –> work that could have been avoided if only your idea turns out inapplicable, due to “technical restraints” that are out of your control. 😛

Chances are they didn’t put too much effort into it, but they still got payed decently.

They get 2 thumbs up and an *internet high-five* from me. ^^

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