Newspaper Archive Disappears From Google, Because Company Wants To Cash In

from the all-about-the-money dept

Another day, another case of copyright being used to lock up information, rather than make it more accessible. In this case, it’s the news archives of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, according to an interesting piece by Henry Grabar over at Slate. A decade or so ago, the newspaper partnered with Google to digitize all of its archives and make them publicly accessible.

The archive had initially been made available on Google around 2008 as part of the company?s effort to digitize historical newspapers. That project ended in 2011, but not before Google had scanned more than 60 million pages covering 250 years of history?s first drafts. Those newspapers have remained publicly accessible, and serve both professional historians and home genealogists.

When the Milwaukee project began, Google used microfilms from the papers that had already been uploaded to the ProQuest research database. Because some things were missing from ProQuest, the Journal-Sentinel asked the Milwaukee Public Library to help out. The library let the company digitize decades of microfilms to bulk out the digital archives.

The article notes that another company, named Newsbank, also has a deal with the Journal-Sentinel to digitize and archive its papers, and tried to get the Milwaukee Public Library to buy access to its database. The library found the offerings way too expensive (it was almost the entire amount of the library’s materials budget). Newsbank decided that part of the problem was that the stuff was also available for free via Google, so it got the Journal-Sentinel to get Google to take down the archive that it had helped create, with help from the library.

Then, in August, Newsbank let the other shoe drop: According to Urban Milwaukee, Gannett?which purchased the paper in April?asked the Journal-Sentinel to ask Google to remove the paper?s digital archives, which the company did. It?s harder to sell a product when it?s being given away for free, after all.

So now the digital archive that the Milwaukee Public Library had helped Google and the Journal-Sentinel create, is no longer available, because another company wants the MPL to pay a significant percentage of its operating budget to access the same material.

What?s different about Milwaukee is that the city is being asked to buy back something it already had?and, in the case of the library?s digital scans, had even helped build.

The library has said that it plans to have the new archive available for people soon — but it likely won’t be free any more. Perhaps because it now needs to pay to get access to the same database it had helped create. Remember when copyright law was supposed to be about furthering knowledge and learning — and not locking it up so that one company could extract all profit from it?

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Companies: google, milwaukee journal-sentinel, milwaukee public library, newsbank

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Comments on “Newspaper Archive Disappears From Google, Because Company Wants To Cash In”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Public domain is broken

Something to do with creating a new collection, I think. I can’t copyright facts but if I create a new database of collected works and allow querying and then present results, isn’t that a new work?

This kind of thing plagues local historians and family historians, who have often donated research only to find it gobbled up by for-profit behemoths (think ancestry), thus finding that they have to pay to view their own work which was always intended to be free to view. And far worse has been wholesale destruction of sites as big players lose interest and just wipe purchased sites off the internet. And this does not extend only to historical research and documentation but even to actual research pursued as not-for-profit (a Sorenson genetic database created by volunteers, now supposedly destroyed and gone for ever, a whole sorry tale all on it’s own)

Anonymous Coward says:

Another day, another case of copyright being used to lock up information, rather than make it more accessible.

You do realize that copyright gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to publicly distribute content on her own terms, right?

Remember when copyright law was supposed to be about furthering knowledge and learning — and not locking it up so that one company could extract all profit from it?

No, I don’t remember it EVER working that way. Exclusive rights, and all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I also don’t remember it ever working that way… even if that was the intent and design from the beginning.

Copyright law has seemingly only increased in locking down information since it was put in place.

It was perhaps an interesting idea, but it has basically failed to promote science and useful arts during my lifetime other than making boatloads of money for middleman corporations and publishers, and a pittance for most creators.

From where I sit, it appears that the lack of copyright protections have done more to promote science and the useful arts rather than the other way around.

Jessie (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Remember when copyright law was supposed to be about furthering knowledge and learning — and not locking it up so that one company could extract all profit from it?

No, I don’t remember it EVER working that way. Exclusive rights, and all.

Constitution of the US, Article 1 Section 8, Clause 8

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Emphasis mine. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. That’s not the way it does work anymore, if it ever actually worked that way to begin with.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"Hmm, no."

Instead of paying the library should refuse the ‘offer’, and instead make it abundantly clear to the public just how far the company is willing to go to try to strong-arm people into paying them.

“They took an archive that was free for the public to access, an archive that we helped them create in order to preserve the historical documents and allow people to more easily access them, and because we refused to pay for something we’d helped create they took down the free version and are now demanding that we pay out the nose for the paid version, an amount that would eat up a majority of our operating budget and leaving almost nothing for anything else.

As a matter of principle we have decided that we will not cave in to their demands, and while we regret that this will mean that we can no longer offer the archives to the public, we feel that the alternative, putting a toll-booth between the public and their own history, history that we had helped archive, would not be in the public’s best interests and would set the wrong precedent.

Again, we apologize for the change. And any comments on our decision can be directed to our offices during the following hours, while any complaints should be directed to the offices of Newsbank.”

Rekrul says:

Remember when copyright law was supposed to be about furthering knowledge and learning — and not locking it up so that one company could extract all profit from it?

That’s the old, outdated definition of copyright. That hasn’t been its definition or purpose in a very long time. I doubt you’d be able to find a single politician who didn’t believe with every fiber of their being that copyright was intended solely to maximize profits.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, the ‘science and useful arts’ the law talks about are the ones available to everyone, not just individual rightsholders. Were it otherwise you could just as easily meet the requirement of the law by having literally eternal copyright, rather than the effectively eternal copyright currently in place, since the copyright owner would have the monopoly privilege for their entire life and under the warped version of copyright that would still count as ‘enriching science and the useful arts’.

Given that the goal is to enrich the public, with the method being the limited time monopoly privilege, it follows that what’s protected by copyright for the (utterly theoretical at this point) ‘limited time’ enters the public domain for others to use and build off of once the duration is over with. The public has their ability to do certain things constrained by the law for a set period of time, and in exchange once that period is over they get their half of the deal.

Not only that but if it was determined that no copyright at all was more beneficial to the public it would absolutely be within the scope of the law to reduce copyright duration to something like a five years, one, or even nothing at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Enrichment of the arts means allowing creators to make a living, not stealing their work.

That is really something you ought to take up with the publishers, labels and studios, as the use copyright to gain control over created works and make almost all of the profit to be made. That is why few creators who go the traditional publisher,label and studio route rarely ever get very rich, and most of them remain poor.
There is also the fallacy that that money is the driving force behind creating new works, while in practice it is the need to tell a story that is the driving force.followed by the desire for an audience. Profit is needed to support the production of copies for the public, and that was the driving force behind copyright. The creative world. at least for digital copies, is transitioning to a service provider/distributer model, where copyright is much less important, and the big problem for creators is finding an audience, and that cause is better served by allowing free copies of the work to circulate, and where fans will buy copies s that they have already got for free, or support the creator by patronage, or helping to fund specific projects. Also, do not expect to make a living from a single creation, but either by continuously creating new works, live performances, or ancillary activities, like after dinner speaking.
In short, copyright mainly benefits the tradition middlemen, who use it to gain control of creations, and to enable them to keep most of the profits from the works as well as deciding when are where it will be made available.

Anonymous Coward says:

Future leak from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Quick lets make google HATE our asses because there’s two customers in the past four years that have requested a backdated newspaper.

FUCK GOOGLE…there’s $32.00 to be made!!! hell yeah!

Imagine if that was to DOUBLE or even treble….hot damn we could be looking at as much as $24 dollars a YEAR…obviously minus the cost of running our own servers, bandwidth, the editors $150,000 salary, three IT staff members and the electricity required……


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