Not The Onion: Morocco Bans Sharing Newspapers To Protect Publisher Business Models

from the no,-really dept

It’s no surprise that traditional newspaper publishing is a struggling business. That’s been the case for a long time, leading to a variety of silly proposals to try to prop up their failing businesses. There’s been talk of changing copyright law to ban linking to or paraphrasing newspaper articles online. There’s been a lot of focus on somehow harming search engines, as if they’re the problem that newspapers face. There have been proposals to create a special version of the hot news doctrine to stop search engines from linking to stories. And, of course, over in the EU there’s been a years-long push to “tax” links, which was so broad in Spain that Google News shut down in that country. That law, designed to protect newspapers, actually harmed them.

However, I don’t think any proposal we’ve seen is crazier than what’s happening in Morocco, where apparently newspaper publishers are lashing out at anything they can think to blame in response to decreasing revenue — including people in cafes sharing newspapers with others. And thus, a compliant government has now banned the practice. No one’s putting any spin on this other than “OMG, newspapers are making less money, and let’s ‘protect’ them.”

Members of the Moroccan Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FMEJ) said the habit of “leaving newspapers behind in public places” was costing their industry $150m each year in lost revenue.

The habit of sharing newspapers, leaving them lying around and generally trying to avoid paying for them was “bleeding the sector,” they claimed in an appeal to the Moroccan government.

I always love the use of “lost revenue” as a descriptor for “Hey, people aren’t paying you as much any more because they’ve found better things to spend their money on.” It’s not lost revenue. You didn’t misplace it. You just are making less because people have found better things to spend on. But, no matter, when the newspaper publishers complain, the government quickly leaps into action.

As a result, the country’s communications minster has agreed to ban providing newspapers for free in cafes, as well as lending them.

Mustapha Khalfi said newspaper editors were “suffering” and that the government needed to try and “limit the damage.”

“The figures demonstrate just how serious it is,” he said in an interview with the Moroccan news website HuffPo Maghreb.

It seems worth noting (though it’s not in the linked article), that Mustapha Khalfi’s prior job was (you guessed it!), working as the editor-in-chief of a Moroccan newspaper.

Khalfi, ever one to scratch the back of his former employer, has also announced plans to subsidize newspapers and to create a commission to “persuade” people to buy more newspapers. Should I petition the government to see if they’ll get more people to support Techdirt as well?

The Telegraph article linked above includes lots of quotes from people in cafes all agreeing that this is a completely ridiculous regulation, but apparently that doesn’t matter to the government, because “lost revenue!”

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Comments on “Not The Onion: Morocco Bans Sharing Newspapers To Protect Publisher Business Models”

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59 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

Khalfi, ever one to scratch the back of his former employer, has also announced plans to subsidize newspapers and to create a commission to “persuade” people to buy more newspapers. Should I petition the government to see if they’ll get more people to support Techdirt as well?

‘In other news the Morocco government has indicated that it plans to offer subsidies to companies selling VHS players and tapes, paired with a $100 million campaign designed to persuade people to switch back to the format. When asked for comment an anonymous government employee said that the matter had been brought to their attention by the companies that still sold VHS players and tapes who noted that due to widespread use of DVDs, Blu-rays and digital format the VHS had been suffering immense lost profits in recent years.

“We’ve got no choice really, if people aren’t going to buy VHS on their own then it’s up to the government to step in and keep them afloat using taxpayer dollars. The public will pay them one way or another, and it’s our hope that our education campaign about the benefits of VHS will lead to people returning to what is clearly a superior format.”

“The VHS industry is of immense value to our government, our country, and our culture as a whole, and as such it’s up to us to make sure that it never suffers from changes to the market by introduction of ‘better’ options. It deserves the exact same level of profits this year as it made last year, and if the public isn’t willing to see reason and choose to put their money where it really belongs, then it’s up to us to do it for them. With their money of course.”

One can only hope that the beleaguered VHS industry can hold on until the public sees reason, and that the government assistance is sufficient to keep it above water and operating at the level of profits it absolutely deserves until that happens.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

This is what regulation does, this is what socialism does.

A lot of anti-capitalist pro communist/socialist people have some fantasy that dropping capitalism and free market will be some magic tonic against corruption and bad government policies that reside over the economy.

While some places still have capitalism, there is no place on earth with a free market at this time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

Yep, lets just continue to scream “socialism is bad”, pretend like all socialists are in favor of every policy that could be categorized as ‘socialist’, and continue to argue against every policy on the basis of it being “socialist” instead of addressing the actual trade offs any given policy on a case by case basis; which is way to hard.

Yes this policy is bad. But it’s not bad simply because you think it’s a socialist policy. Publicly funded police departments and fire departments are socialist. A government funded military is technically socialist. The very existence of corporations whose shareholders aren’t responsible for debts incurred by the corporation could be seen as socialist as it’s a government grant liability protection for citizens who wish to invest.

Shut the fuck up about the boogey-man named socialism and construct an actual argument. The term’s been so overused for that purpose by now, that it has nearly lost all meaning.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

This very article and the post I responded are the arguments that have been constructed, I am merely responding to them and expanding on them.

You just essentially ran up and said that there was no argument right after seeing and hearing an argument. Someone call the police, another one has escaped without their meds!

Let me tell you how this works. The capitalists own something. Socialists say not you don’t own shit, the community does. Welp, you stupid as fuck socialists vote in your socialist politicians that are then purchased by the capitalists turning everything in to an Oligarchy.

Socialism NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENS… EVER!!!! World history proves it. Socialism is a disease of the mind where people think that true democracy is actually possible. It is not, never will and people like you are the reason why. The people at the bottom bitching about the poor and destitute are made of the same mental dregs that comprise the ultra rich that have no care for the piss-ants they stand on. And the people in the middle? The ones that produce, work, bleed, and create effort? They are stuck in the middle of you fucking idiots trying to make a decent way in life and to control their destiny some how. That is right, if you were super rich you would act exactly the same way as the people you HATE act!

The capitalist actively trys to turn you in to a socialist and will create as many as they can to get you to vote a socialist in so they can buy an oligarchy. All they have to do is knock a few crumbs off the table and pay a little bit of lip service to your cause without actually doing anything and you roll over and stick your ass in the air!

The best possible cure to this madness is and will always BE, the Right of people to own their property, particpate in a free market, and a legal force that actively enforces Anti-Monoploy and Anti-Trust laws.

None of the fucking ISMs are a cure for a fucking damn thing! Never have and never will be.

So Liberty, Private Property, Free Market, Anti-Monoply/Trust law & for fucking damn sure Anti-Regulation!

Humans are easy to corrupt therefore a system in which makes that corruption the most difficult to gain hold is the best and is what made America great and powerful before the fucking socialists got a hold of it all and ruined it with regulation and welfare!

And by the way… you might not want to use the current “corrupt as all fucking get out” Police as one of your standard bearers for a “Socialist” institution. People might figure out how fucking insane the idea of Socialism or any ISM is and see you for the stupid you really are!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

ha haha… you never know in this day and age.

But seriously, anyone signed onto a an ISM of any kind as a cure for their problems IS the problem.

Yes, we all know that the capitalists are greedy and evil as fuck. The problem is that everyone stupidly thinking that regulation or another ISM is the cure.

We just need a free market and laws (anti-monopoly & anti-trust) to prevent the terrible shit that happens with capitalism. Regulation will not do it because that just cements the trouble everyone “CLAIMS” they want to avoid. We have seen more than enough history on this… hell we have seen TOO MUCH history on how Socialism is just used to co-opt well intentioned idiots into giving away all of their viability into the hands of a politician that is more than willing to sell their soul for a little piece of the world pie!

I actually have ideologies that span capitalism, socialism, marxism… just think of an ISM and i have a value that can be reflected in them, hell everyone does. I just try to pick from the best of them all and drop any ism and have a realistic view of humanity and its penchant for corruption.

People are greedy, evil, and sick bastards. See a disaster and what happens? Looting. Only in a very few places does the militant and despicable looting not occur and even in those societies you will see plenty of corruption at the top of their social structures.

Human have always had some detestable desire to control other humans, it all stems from there. You have, someone else wants, and might even be willing to steal it from you, and few but still present might be willing to kill you for it. It is as fundamental and basic as human survival and desire.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

And where did anyone claim to have signed on to an -ism. All I said was to argue against policies on a case by case basis instead of every argument being:
It’s socialism.
Socialism is bad.
Therefore it’s bad.

And like I said, this Moroccan policy is bad, but that’s because it won’t help the people it’s supposed to help, and it’ll actively hurt the people in general, not because it’s socialist.

And you seem to already recognize that in your admission that anti-monopoly laws have a useful place.
And it would seem weird to claim you’re anti-regulation when anti-monopoly laws ARE a form of market regulation.

All I’m asking for is a more nuanced look at things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

Would an ISM catcher help? I hear the FBI has something that works with IMSI.

If you want I can make you one for $1000 (I can even make the dial go to 11). It will be 99% effective at detecting who in the world is going to cause a problem with ISM.

klaus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

“…we all know that the capitalists are greedy and evil as fuck…”

“People are greedy, evil, and sick bastards”

“Human have always had some detestable desire to control other humans”

Sorry, but I have to challenge viewpoints so general and bleak and so wrong as these. I’m a person, a capitalist with social tendencies, and I resent your depicting me so. Humanity is so much better than you describe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

And capitalists “own” something out of their own accord, right?

WRONG
How much would they “own” without a state guarantee their right to this “something”? Without the laws, the system to protect and enforce them? If you’ve ever heard about “civil forfeiture”, you should know how much capitalist “owns” by his/her own accord – “shit”. Why then, since the social-funded state provides this service to the capitalist, shouldn’t it impose some limitations? Or ask for a price for services?

And, by the way, introducing “antitrust” and “anti-monopoly” is a regulatory limitation on the ownership imposed by the state. So maybe first get your definitions right, before you start babbling?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Why offer a better product/service when you can MAKE people give you money?

This is called traditional government.

Government is a legal racket and almost never agreed to by the citizens it is foisted upon. Government is often the cause of the problem to be solved. FCC for example created the current problem with the telco monopolies. Many here at TD are throwing their necks out in vain attempts to suck the FCC off while ignoring the new rules that can be easily used to make the problem worse if the right person is put into power.

If socialism was really technically feasible then a government would never have been formed to begin with. People would have just agreed to create a police force comprised of members of the community where everyone rotated duties. The council would meet when enough people were called and the council would be the people peacefully deciding on the outcome and helping each other out.

But nope… never going to happen, someone is willing to kill you for what you have or for your ideas and most others will only stand by and do nothing but watch, just like those online videos where people stand around watching others get assaulted.

Sadly, someone wants to control you, and far to many fucking people are looking for a king.

TheResidentSkeptic says:

So if..

… every establishment (cafe, library, doctors offices) that used to buy a copy or three to share decides to cancel their subscriptions…

Or will they be ordered to keep purchasing, and locking the copies away so no one can read them?

What about families? Will a family have to purchase one copy for each person in the family who can read? So with Mom, Dad, and 3 kids they have to buy 5 papers? Per day or just the Sunday Edition?

I was so wrong. I didn’t realize that “Idiocracy” was a documentary..

David says:

Re: Re:

The general practice is leaving your newspaper behind for potentially unknown readers. So you’d slap this with littering laws. If a cafe puts up a newspaper box where people can put their read newspaper for others to pick up again, you slap the cafe with hygiene laws. Or violation of the fire code. Or misleading advertising? People might sit down assuming that they get a complete newspaper and pages might be missing?

Offering somebody your newspaper is soliciting.

So many possibilities…

Jason says:

loophole?

…the habit of “leaving newspapers behind in public places” was costing their industry $150m each year in lost revenue.

The habit of sharing newspapers, leaving them lying around and generally trying to avoid paying for them was “bleeding the sector,” they claimed in an appeal to the Moroccan government.

So does that imply that someone could sell their copy to another person and the publishers would now have to be okay with it?

Anonymous Coward says:

This is one time I have to agree with Mike Masnick. This has got to be the most asinine policy that any government has ever dreamed up. It’s ridiculous to ban people from sharing their legally purchased newspaper with other people. What’s next? Banning people from sharing their cars with their family members? Banning people from sharing their movies or music with other people? Banning people from sharing ideas with other people?

This really is ridiculous.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why limit your agreement to this one topic?

Copyright had a valid purpose at one time. But most recent copyright policy is in the same vein: aimed solely at ensuring the profits of major corporations. The creators that were supposed to be beneficiaries of copyright, as originally conceived, don’t get the benefit anymore; they get the dregs.

In support of profits for everyone but the author, the governments have created or encouraged all kinds of asinine policies: DMCA and DRM; copyright collectives; DNS confiscations; copyright trolls and their extortion; confiscation of the public domain; denial of fair use; and social dictatorship. Among many other sins.

None of which offer more than the most miserly pretense of protecting the creator rights. Instead they ensure the rights of the big media corporations to indenture the creators for as small a pittance as possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Why limit your agreement to this one topic?

I initially thought that this might be the usual vehement troll who posted under Anonymous64 on TorrentFreak, or antidirt/average_joe. Or Slonecker.

But it’s probably not. While the first sentence suggests that the OP has a history of consistent disagreement and loathing of Masnick, the latter series of questions doesn’t seem to place him as one of the above usual shills. They’re more likely to whine, “Nobody is saying you can’t share a car, fucking pirate Masnick.”

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s ridiculous to ban people from sharing their legally purchased newspaper with other people. What’s next?

Well, I guess you can substitute anything else that currently has some sort of control on it’s poseession and/or use:

It’s ridiculous to ban people from sharing their legally purchased firearms with other people.

It’s ridiculous to ban people from sharing their legally purchased explosives with other people.

It’s ridiculous to ban people from sharing their legally purchased drugs with other people.

It’s ridiculous to ban people from sharing their legally purchased smallpox virus with other people.

It’s ridiculous to ban people from sharing their legally purchased plutonium with other people.

So banning sharing newspapers isn’t the thin end of the wedge, the precedent for banning other things later. Governments have been banning (or restricting via requiring licenses/permits) the sharing of things for, well, forever.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“So banning sharing newspapers isn’t the thin end of the wedge, the precedent for banning other things later.”

Erm, I’m pretty sure most of those things are already illegal in most countries, and are heavily regulated if not outlawed. If you’re going to create a hyperbolic fantasy, you might as well start with something that doesn’t already exist.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“This is one time I have to agree with Mike Masnick.”

Why stop here? One of the basic things talked about on Techdirt is how the way to deal with problems like the claimed “lost revenue” here is innovation and business models, not legislation and copyright shenanigans.

In previous generations, publishers understood the behaviour of its readers and adjusted accordingly, moulding its advertising model around the knowledge that there’s not a 1:1 relationship between readers and buyers. Now that the old model doesn’t fit (mainly due to competition for classifieds and the like), the answer is apparently to whine about lost revenue and demand that the government “protect” them. This is unacceptable, doomed to cause the entire industry to fail and runs counter to the rights of the general public. The way forward is to adjust business to the reality of the modern marketplace, not try vainly to squeeze a few remaining years profit out of an outdated model just because it used to work, once upon a time.

If you agree with that, you agree with a lot of things Mike’s written.

Lisboeta (profile) says:

Problem solved!

How is the Moroccan government going to stop people from “accidentally” leaving behind their newspaper in a café, or elsewhere? Or, indeed, accidentally (or deliberately) sharing their newspaper with friends and family? They haven’t thought this through. Let me offer a few suggestions:
1. Henceforth, purchase of any newspaper requires production of ID.
2. Aforesaid newspaper must then be imprinted with the purchaser’s fingerprint.
3. Anyone found carrying/using a newspaper which does not bear their fingerprint is guilty of unlawful appropriation.

That should solve the problem. Or contribute to the further decline of newsprint. I’m not sure which.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Problem solved!

“How is the Moroccan government going to stop people from “accidentally” leaving behind their newspaper in a café, or elsewhere? Or, indeed, accidentally (or deliberately) sharing their newspaper with friends and family? They haven’t thought this through.”

They haven’t announced Step 2 yet, I’ve got an early draft. All sales to be recorded at point of sale and registered to the buyer (government-issued ID required). All newspapers to be returned to dedicated collection points for DNA and fingerprinting. Investigations will take place for all newspapers not returned within 1 week, leading to imprisonment and torture of the registered buyer until s/he divulges what happened to the newspaper. This fulfils several needs for the state – supervising the population, providing new jobs for prison guards, torturers, judges and the manufacturers of the newspaper registry systems thus postponing the total wipeout of jobs from the coming robot revolution. Result = happy bureaucrats and politicians.

David says:

Re: Will they charge less for each copy of newspaper?

Physically the newspaper copies might have been read multiple times but that was not the intended use. The continuing depravity of eye pirates (what do they think they got their eye patch for?) necessitated lawmaker action: paper types self-destructing after reading had precarious timing problems and burnt down more houses than strictly necessary.

John85851 (profile) says:

They're losing revenue... potential revenue, that is

How many people will pick up the free newspaper, read an article, and appreciate the writers or news or comics? Okay, sure, the newspaper is in the business to make money, not educate readers, but there’s no way to measure how many people will see something in the newspaper and buy something else because of it.

How much advertising reaches people because of free newspapers? Okay, granted, that doesn’t help the newspapers’ subscription rates, but it should help their advertising rates. How much more could the paper get for each ad if they could tell companies that a single copy of the paper reaches 5 or 6 people in a cafe?
That also sounds like a good way to cut down on the cost of printing.

DannyB (profile) says:

I predicted this a few days ago

See this post:

. . . people of reprehensible moral nature brazenly infringed copyright by letting multiple persons read the same newspaper. This should still be a crime, even in the case where different persons wanted to read different sections. And it is much worse when two or more people laugh at a single copy of the comic section. Or the travesty of two different people identifying a movie that they want to see — by looking at the movie section of the same newspaper!.

jameshogg says:

Saying this will infuriate copyright advocates but it is the truth: this ban is what you really need to do to stay consistent with copyright mentality.

Because what is the difference between sending a copy over the internet of a work, and making a copy of the work via the beams of light that bounce off a pre-owned paper? In both cases one physical good (whether that’s paper or electricity) has ended up producing two copies with one copy in one mind each. If “pay-per-view” demands all the Digital “Rights” “Management” in the world, the logic must also extend to Physical “Rights” “Management”.

And why shouldn’t there be a big padlock that snaps shut your newspaper at unauthorised moments? You might make an infringing copy for all we know! If you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear! Because the burden of proof is on you to prove innocence! Those beams of light that bounce from the paper and hit somebody else’s eyes except yours are facilitating piracy!

HOW WILL PAPERS EVER MAKE MONEY AS LONG AS THIS BLATANT THEFT GOES ON? PHYSICAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT NOW! PRM! PRM!

Oh… what’s that? Oh? People still pay for papers even though everyone can wait for everyone else to buy and then free-ride?!? Whereas our “game theory” analogy says this should be impossible?! People still pay despite 0% enforcement against second-hand readers?!

Well… uh… that’s still because of copyright law ya know!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Lyrics to 'Sharing is stealing!'

‘Sharing is stealing!’
By MAFIAA, BSA, et al
Copyright forever

Don’t copy that floppy!
Don’t tape that tune!
Don’t pass that paper!
Don’t share that song!
Just do as we say
And we’ll all get along

DMCA leads the way!
Watching you on the net
By night and by day
DRM means you pay and you pay
You didn’t really buy it
It only seemed that way

I imagine most of you know how the rest of the song goes by now.

Kronomex (profile) says:

Invest in fingerprint technology that allows only the original purchaser to read the paper. When they finish it and leave it in a coffee shop or train or some such place another person finds it and the paper self combusts after scanning and finding that the prints do not match. Or, better yet, hire hundreds of people to go around looking for abandoned newspapers and removing them so they can’t be read again by a non-paying reader.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think it’s about time some of these legacy industries were finally allowed to just die and allow things to progress naturally. I don’t see any point in propping up old industries just because the times have changed and they are no longer relevant or at least no longer relevant in the form they insist on staying in instead of adapting and changing to fit the times.

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