Bad Web Experience: This Article Removed Because Of Copyright?

from the wake-up,-get-with-the-times dept

I've really never understood news sites that "remove" old articles. Talk about breaking the way the web works. At Techdirt, we receive a good bit of traffic to our archives, and that's valuable traffic. Not only do such visitors actually tend to be more likely to click on advertisements (regular readers have ad blindness), but they're like fresh "leads" to get regular new readers. And yet, so many publications ruin all that traffic by sending them nowhere. The Associated Press is particularly bad about this, forcing partners who pay the AP for content to remove it after a month. In those cases, visitors are just given an error page. But here's a bizarre one. Jake points us to a story at The Guardian's website, where the headline and the little blurb, along with an image are left in place, but in place of the actual article is just a message saying, This article has been removed as our copyright has expired. How annoying is that? Why do publications even agree to post stories that they will then be forced to pull down in the future? It completely kills the web experience. It breaks any links to the article. It kills off any discussion about the article. It's exactly how not to do things on the web, and it shows, yet again, what the traditional newspapers -- even one that seems to "get it" as much as The Guardian does -- still has a long way to go in adapting to the online world.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2010 @ 9:41pm

    Sounds like a problem wit dat copyright, yo kno dawg, you digg?

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

  2. icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Feb 1st, 2010 @ 9:47pm

    Note to self: Do not comment on Guardian articles. Any added value will be wasted.

    Also, I don't understand. How could The Guardian's copyright expire on its own content? Or is that part just rubbish?

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

  3. icon
    Pjerky (profile), Feb 1st, 2010 @ 10:03pm


    All I have to say is WTF (I know this is ironic given the next part of my comment, but work with me here people) and go back to elementary school and take 1st grade English again.

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

  4. identicon
    discojohnson, Feb 1st, 2010 @ 10:11pm

    I think I read this somewhere...

    ...but I thought you couldn't copyright facts (news).

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

  5. icon
    Andrew F (profile), Feb 1st, 2010 @ 10:32pm


    Yeah, this is a little weird. When the copyright expires, it should just become public domain. Maybe they really meant "license" instead of "copyright". They don't own the copyright on their articles and license it from someone else for a limited duration. Once the license expires, they have to remove it or risk being sued for infringement.

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

  6. icon
    Andrew F (profile), Feb 1st, 2010 @ 10:33pm

    Re: I think I read this somewhere...

    The facts aren't copyrighted but any creative elements within the article are -- e.g. how the facts are presented to you as opposed to what the facts actually are.

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

  7. identicon
    John Strickland, Feb 1st, 2010 @ 10:38pm


    In the book 1984, all old media which may show the governing entities to be wrong or doing poorly are destroyed and replaced with articles that showed the ruling elite in always positive light.

    Maybe the guardian is just preparing for 1984.

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

  8. icon
    Devonavar (profile), Feb 1st, 2010 @ 10:46pm

    Intentional Irony?

    Wouldn't this qualify as a (muted) form of protest against limited time licenses? They could just throw up a good old 404 page, but instead we get a specific mention that copyright is the reason we can't see it. Seems specifically designed to get regular web folks (like us) up in arms against whoever is licensing them the content.

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

  9. icon
    Nick Coghlan (profile), Feb 1st, 2010 @ 10:48pm

    Copyright reverted to author?

    Depending on the style of article, the copyright may revert to the author after a period of time (or the article may only have been licensed in the first place), so if the paper doesn't have an ongoing licensing agreement for web publication, they may have to take the article down. This wouldn't happen for the Guardian's own staff writers, but I could see it happening for some columnists and opinion piece writers.

    I know this can happen in the book world if a project doesn't go ahead or goes out of print (I've seen that from the author's side in getting the copyright back for the manuscript on a project that was never published), so it doesn't surprise to hear it happens in other forms of publishing as well.

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

  10. icon
    kyle clements (profile), Feb 1st, 2010 @ 11:21pm

    the ironic part is, this kind of behaviour actually leads to more 'infringement'.

    years ago, after tiring of dead links in my bookmark list, I started just copying and saving the entire article so that I would be sure it would still be there when i came back to it months later. Text takes up almost no space at all, so an archive of hundreds, or even thousands of articles takes up about as much space as a single image or song.

    Think of how people used to respond to the news: an interesting article meant you would pull out the scissors, fold it up and put it in your pocket, so you would have it ready to pull out when the topic came up in conversation. And that was fine.

    The digital analogue to that would be copying and pasting the article into a forum or message board to open up the discussion. But you can't do that now; that's infringement!

    I thought news was supposed to be shared with others...

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

  11. icon
    PaulT (profile), Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 12:46am

    Re: Re:

    At a guess, it was probably a freelancer who sold the article with a licence for a limited span of time. Silly, for both the site and the author for the reasons Mike discusses, but I don't think it's unusual.

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

  12. icon
    Lachlan Hunt (profile), Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 2:07am

    This is so annoying. I've stumbelled across so many good news and blogs based on links to old articles. This site included. Often, if the old articles are good, I'll take a look at the more recent articles and if it's any good, I'll subscribe to the feed.

    Number of sites that delete old articels, of which I have become a regular or casual reader: 0
    Number of sites that don't delete old articels, of which I have become a regular or casual reader: Too many to count.

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

  13. icon
    The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 2:41am

    Looking at the article, it would appear to be a "special" article, as the subject of the article, Katharine Hibbert, is also the author.

    I was not surprised to find:

    Which means that what was in the Guardian was potentially a sample of the book or something similar, with a limited use license. The photo was taken by David Levene, who appears to be a paper staff photographer, thus explains why the image is still there (they own the rights to it).

    I would say the best answer to the question could be found by contact Ms Hibbert.

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

  14. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 6:09am


    Sounds like a good reason to not go to news sites to me. They remove articles then what is the point in going there? Any discussion later goes poof.

    If Ms Hibbert doesn't want the free publicity, fine, let her drown in obscurity. I certainly have no reason to ever learn about her now (not that I didn't before, none of my friends have suggested anything by her to me).

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

  15. icon
    Alan Gerow (profile), Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 8:37am

    Re: Intentional Irony?

    That's what I thought. I thought it was a bit of an f-you to the situation. Mike mentions other places do a 404 where the reason behind why the page is gone is concealed. The Guardian is saying "this article is gone, blame copyright restrictions."

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

  16. identicon
    Anon, Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 8:52am

    It's not just limited to this one item, Google shows a fair number: link...surprise surprise the music section seems to have a lot of them :)

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

  17. icon
    Richard (profile), Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re:

    Ironic that the article was entitled "Living without money"

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

  18. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Haha, icing on the cake. Nice.

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

  19. identicon
    wvhillbilly, Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 1:37pm


    "But you can't do that now; that's infringement!"
    This is what my mother used to call, "cutting off your nose to spite your face."

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

  20. identicon
    Jeff Power, Feb 3rd, 2010 @ 5:45am


    This is why I wish traditional newspapers and other old guard media would just quit complaining and go out of business already so that the rest of us can get on with enjoying what the Web has to offer

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

  21. identicon
    LuckyJimm, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 3:09am

    The Guardian piece was a condensed version of Katherine Hibbert's new book. Yes, it's weird that it disappeared after a month. But this will be nothing whatsoever to do with her, and I'm sure she would have wanted her article to stay online forever. It will have been the publishers - Ebury Press, a Random House imprint - who decided to only license the article to the Guardian for month. Not the author's fault!

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

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