Reuters Steps Up; Says Linking, Excerpting, Sharing Are Good Things For The News

from the good-for-them dept

A few weeks ago, after the AP announced its plans to crack down on people who it felt were linking/excerpting too much, we suggested that Reuters should speak up and respond to the AP's position by encouraging linking and sharing of news. It appears that Chris Ahearn, President, Media at Thomson Reuters, has taken us up on the offer, writing a nice little manifesto: Why I believe in the link economy. And, of course, helping to prove that, he linked to a bunch of other sites -- including our original blog post asking him to make a statement just like this (in contrast, by the way, while I've been quoted multiple times by the AP, I'm pretty sure they've never linked to Techdirt in an article). His post is pretty much exactly what I'd hoped Reuters (or others) would say (though, Ahearn is better at being diplomatic about the AP). Here are some key excerpts:
The Internet isn't killing the news business any more than TV killed radio or radio killed the newspaper. Incumbent business leaders in news haven't been keeping up. Many leaders continue to help push the business into the ditch by wasting "resources" (management speak for talented people) on recycling commodity news. Reader habits are changing and vertically curated views need to be meshed with horizontal read-around ones.

Blaming the new leaders or aggregators for disrupting the business of the old leaders, or saber-rattling and threatening to sue are not business strategies -- they are personal therapy sessions. Go ask a music executive how well it works.
Exactly. There's been too much misdirected blame placed on the internet, even though the internet has never been the problem. Not keeping up with what readers want is where the mistakes have been made.
I believe in the link economy. Please feel free to link to our stories -- it adds value to all producers of content. I believe you should play fair and encourage your readers to read-around to what others are producing if you use it and find it interesting.

I don't believe you could or should charge others for simply linking to your content. Appropriate excerpting and referencing are not only acceptable, but encouraged.
That's basically exactly what I had suggested Reuters say... so that's great. Once again, this makes me want to look for Reuters alternatives to any AP story I happen to come across.

Of course, I don't agree with everything Ahearn has to say, though I do agree with the overall spirit of what he's saying. He talks about the need to agree "on a code of conduct and ethics." I'm not against the concept, I just don't see how it's possible or even necessary. These things tend to sort themselves out. Players who are "bad actors" become obvious over time. Good players get rewarded for it, and you deal with some questionable players on the margin. Rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing, why not just focus on providing more value yourself?

Then there's this:
Let's identify how we can birth it and agree what is "fair use" or "fair compensation" and have a conversation about how we can work together to fuel a vibrant, productive and trusted digital news industry. Let's identify business models that are inclusive and that create a win-win relationship for all parties.
The thing is, the law says what's fair use, not any voluntary agreement. And "fair compensation" isn't determined by everyone chatting (that could be seen as collusion, actually), but in the market actually doing deals. I'm all for discussions on positive business models that are inclusive and create win-win relationships. That's why we highlight examples of that all the time around here. But I don't think discussing good business models means getting an entire industry to agree to use them ahead of time. For better or for worse (well, I'd argue for better), the world just doesn't work that way. The win-win business models are being developed already -- and that's great. Let's keep looking at those success stories, and pull out the important lessons from them -- but that doesn't mean everyone "agreeing" to things beforehand. Unfortunately, that's just not going to happen. There are too many vested interests to make it work. But the nice thing is that those who don't figure it out get swept out with the tide.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    Thank God there's sensible people like Chris Ahearn out there.

    Did you see that WSJ and Fox declined in revenue (again) last quarter? They blamed the web. Darn Web Whippersnappers. How dare you, sir! Avast ye matie! Arr!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE57467120090805

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2009 @ 3:20pm

    Technology: keep up or die.

    I imagine the nice folks at the AP are still struggling with the touchtone phone.

     

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  3.  
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    fogbugzd, Aug 5th, 2009 @ 4:02pm

    Who is in charge here

    The basic problem here is that the old media thinks they are in charge. They think they can decide what consumers want, and consumers will do what they are told to do.

    Ahearn seems to take the opposite perspective -- He is sensitive to what consumers want, and seems to be looking for way to meet those needs.

    The old media isn't alone, of course. There are a lot of corporate folk who hare sworn enemies of the basic economic principle of "consumer sovereignty." Ultimately it is consumers who decide where to spend money, and the secret to long-term business success is figuring out how to produce products the consumers are willing to buy. A sure way to disaster is to look at what consumers bought last year and then make something that is not as good and costs more with the expectation consumers will do as they are told.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2009 @ 5:16pm

    Reuters FTW!

    Good bye AP. I hope you see it coming.

     

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  5.  
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    Jerry Leichter, Aug 5th, 2009 @ 7:41pm

    You're being way to tough on him for those final remarks. "Fair use" has never had a legal definition everyone could agree on. Absent specific statutory language (which we're highly unlikely to ever see), a court would be strongly influenced in an analysis by a common understanding in an industry of what's OK and what goes too far.

    As for fair compensation, how are contracts and agreements on price actually reached except through conversation? Collusion can take place only among *competitors*; it's expected that buyers and sellers will spend a great deal of time talking to each other about exactly the kinds of things that land competitors in trouble if they talk about it.

    As to the business models ... where do you see him calling for some kind of agreement ahead of time?

    There's the "economic man"/Ayn Rand view of atomic individuals each pursuing his own rationally calculated best interests completely objectively, and there's the reality of how human being actually interact with each other. Most business communities do, in fact, run on general understandings of what's proper and what isn't - legal or not, profitable or not. That's the basis of "trust", which is a fundamental if difficult to measure resource, without which economies don't work very well. To complain when someone like Ahearn calls for more understanding and discussion and return of some notion of civility and ethics to a business that's descended into name calling and legalisms seems to completely miss the point.

     

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  6.  
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    MostInterestingMan (profile), Aug 5th, 2009 @ 10:08pm

    Re:

    Good catch on the Ayn Rand linkage, Jerry.

    Ayn Rand's ideology seems based on a very internal-focused view of the world. It's also very new age-esque, and elevates using others capabilities for maximum personal gain. Unfortunately, it seems to be the modis operandi via indoctrination received, perhaps in college, by many of the biz dev folks I've ran into over the past decade.

    Which is odd, because should a serious conversation ensue, it seems that often the desire is often put more heavily on punishment than education. However, in its function, the power to punish is not essentially different from that of curing or educating.

    But what strikes me is the fact that in our society, art, music, or a news article can be appropriated as some sort of imaginary 'property'. Normally, 'property' is something which is only related to objects. The problem is that it's not to individuals, or to life. An object which can be, and is owned like sticks and fire. If the current IP system existed in the days of cavemen, would fire have been patented? Quite possibly. Knowledge is the strategic adversary of fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.

    Sad state of affairs indeed, because as things change on multiple fronts, some desire to continue to hold onto the old system.

    Be sure to watch the link in HD and fullscreen.

     

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  7.  
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    Stephen Pate, Aug 6th, 2009 @ 12:33am

    Reuters is lying

    Last month I posted a CBC news clip on YouTube as part of a story about Sotomayor.

    Reuters demanded we take it down, even after we protested it was from the Canadian CBC and the use of the clip was a)legal in Canada, b) CBC had not protested and c) tell us what belonged to Reuters. They just threatened my YouTube account so I caved. It was a small story and who cares.

    Reuters and BBC are very aggressive if you quote them or post their clips, despite the fact that's what the news business has been doing for decades.

     

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  8.  
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    Pete Austin, Aug 6th, 2009 @ 3:10am

    Reuters is not lying

    @Stephen Pate. Posting on youtube is *copying*, not linking.

    There's no inconsistency with Reuters supporting linking and fair use, while opposing outright copying of copyrighted content.

    What you did sounds like it would be illegal in the USA and UK. You seem knowledgeable about Canadian Law, so if you think copying of TV excerpts to youtube is legal there, please could you post a link to something official that explains why. I'd genuinely be interested.

     

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  9.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Aug 6th, 2009 @ 5:17am

    Re: Reuters is not lying

    It's not necessarily illegal.
    Posting news clips on youtube could be legal, if you provide commentary next to it, that's the fair use part. You can comment on the news and add a video clip to that comment.

     

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  10.  
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    Stephen Pate, Aug 6th, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    Reuters is lying

    I understand what is legal or not. The clip was part of a story on NJN Network with enough comment and info on YouTube to make it legal.

    The point is - they had no copyright of the clib - not one iota. It was filmed by the CBC crew in Washington or licensed by them.

    BBC did the the same thing to me on an Iranian cellphone video that they didn't own, until I told them to piss off. The Brits like that talk.

    News organizations share all the time except they hate Internet blogs, journals whatever.

    Personally I don't believe in copyright. Share the love and share the info.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Stephen Pate, Aug 6th, 2009 @ 5:51pm

    Reuters is lying

    I understand what is legal or not. The clip was part of a story on NJN Network with enough comment and info on YouTube to make it legal.

    The point is - they had no copyright of the clib - not one iota. It was filmed by the CBC crew in Washington or licensed by them.

    BBC did the the same thing to me on an Iranian cellphone video that they didn't own, until I told them to piss off. The Brits like that talk.

    News organizations share all the time except they hate Internet blogs, journals whatever.

    Personally I don't believe in copyright. Share the love and share the info.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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