Professor Says News Should Get Special 24 Hour Protections So No Aggregator Can Link To It

from the um.-what? dept

We've seen all sorts of really bizarre and downright dangerous plans to change copyright law to favor newspapers, but a new one, posted at Henry Blodget's Business Insider may be the most ridiculous of all. It starts off with a bunch of really bad assumptions, and then suggests special copyright protections for publications against aggregators, including that no one could repost (even fair use reposting) any content from a daily publication for 24-hours or a week for weekly publications:
A first suggestion would be to provide newspaper and other journalistic content special protection, so that no part of any story from any daily periodical could be reposted in an online aggregator, or used online for any use other than commentary on the article, for 24 hours; similarly, no part of any story from any weekly publication could be reposted in an online aggregator or for any use purpose other than commentary, for one week.
This comes from a Wharton operations professor, Eric Clemons, and a lawyer, Nehal Madhani. There are all sorts of problems with this, starting that the whole assumption that "aggregators" are somehow the problem. We're still trying to figure out what's wrong with aggregators. Clemons and Madhani insist that Google is somehow a problem:
Using aggregators like Google and others, I can access essentially in real time the lead paragraphs of almost any story from the New York Times, the Washington Post, or indeed any other major news service.
Okay, that leaves out some rather important details. First, those newspapers can very easily block Google News via the magic of robots.txt. Second, if the only value you, as a publisher, provide, is the lead paragraph, then you're not providing much value and you deserve to go out of business. Third, and most importantly, the whole point of this is that Google News sends those sites tons of traffic. This is why "search engine optimization" is such a huge field today -- because most sites want that traffic. To argue that the same traffic is somehow damaging is ridiculous.

But Clemons and Madhani ignore all of that. Instead, they claim that Google News and similar aggregators are why "print media publications are dying." Except they provide no evidence for that statement, because there is none. Revenue from those publications has been in decline for many years -- well before Google and the internet existed. The biggest problem many of the bigger publications faced was taking on ridiculous debt loads. On top of that, most of them failed to provide value to their community, as competitors stepped in to serve those communities. That's not about aggregators.

The proposal also makes a few other whoppers:
The net is a pretty robust institution by now, and if we were suddenly not able to access articles from the Post (Washington or New York) until they were 24 hours old the net would, indeed, survive. In contrast, big city newspapers are dying from the east coast to the west, and without that change to reuse of newspapers' content, it actually is not clear that investigative journalism as we know it will survive much longer.
This is hogwash, frankly. There is plenty of new investigative journalism going on, done by institutions who are putting in place smarter business models. Telling aggregators they can't point people to news for 24 hours (or a week in some cases) is just ridiculous and would do a hell of a lot more harm by effectively hiding stories.

Of course, the most ironic of all of this is that this little bit of pure linkbait is published on BusinessInsider, which is famous for republishing huge chunks of articles from other sources with no commentary whatsoever, and just a link back to the original.

Filed Under: copyright, eric clemons, hot news, journalism, nehal madhani

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2010 @ 5:21pm


    The article (and proposed "solution") is not about 1 newspaper copying another's story but about attempts to stop aggregators like Goggle News. Have you ever even looked at Google News? Each story has a headline and a 1st paragraph copied from a single news source. Under that are links to 1 or more (sometimes hundreds) original stories. If you want different viewpoints, just read the articles on the event from different papers.

    But look at your take on the proposal for a minute. If a plane were to fly into the World Trade Center in NYC, the only way the LA Times could report on it would be to send a reporter and photog to NYC? If the 1st person to report an oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico worked for a podunk town weekly no one else could report on it for a week? How does that make any sense?

    While I think Kyle Clements comment on newspapers going out of business misses a few key points about why this would be bad, the general sentiment is right. What's so special about newspapers that they need to be saved at the expense of bringing more diverse news sources to people. If I were to only get my news from the local paper (LA Times), I'd think that there was no one making movies any more.

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