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.
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!”