Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Unleash the copyright beast against the 'Beast'?

Yesterday, I pointed to the misguided comments by Judge Richard Posner, who suggested we ban linking -- and -- paraphrasing without the rights-owner's consent.

Now, from Cleveland comes a suggestion that is a tad more reasonable, but still troubling. Under the headline "Tighter copyright law could save newspapers," columnist Connie Schultz is promoting the work of the brothers Marburger who suggest resurrecting the old AP v. International News Service case and using the concept of "parasitic agcregators" to deny the ability of sites like the Daily Beast and Newser to rewrite and aggregate other news outlets' copy.

One suspects the real target here, however, are the hundreds of TV and radio stations who have done this long before the Intertubes and who have long been a bone stuck in newspapers' craws (and which Schultz briefly mentions).

So the Marburgers -- David, a First Amendment lawyer, and Daniel, an economics professor -- came up with the essence of a two-point plan (PDF) as relayed by Schultz:
  • Aggregators would reimburse newspapers for ad revenues associated with their news reports.
  • Injunctions would bar aggregators' profiting from newspapers' content for the first 24 hours after stories are posted.
For some papers, that last point may be the only value proposition they've got going in a world of otherwise largely "processed" news, and it's probably better than a total paywall. But not much.

There are so many ways to evade it. Are we going to have the "paraphrase police" out in force?

And are there really that many aggregators that are parasites to the extent they are cannibalizing traffic? (The authors pointedly say Google is not the problem.) And then there is this from Schultz herself:

Newspaper industry leaders are marinating in a brew of inaction and indecision. John Sturm, president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America -- the chief lobbyist for newspaper publishers -- says his board of directors is considering various plans of action and hopes to agree on one "by the end of the year."
Let's hope some sanity prevails before then.

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At 7/6/09, 12:18 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You're right on, Doug. As a fellow Cleveland writer, I've known & liked Connie for 20-plus years, but I just think she's missing the boat a little on this idea.


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