Huh? Newspaper Columnist Calls For Copyrighting News

Columnist Connie Schultz at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has added her voice to those calling for new laws that would prevent Web sites from summarizing news stories that originate elsewhere.

Schultz joins figures such as influential judge Richard Posner and newspaper industry lawyers Bruce Sanford and Bruce Brown in claiming that this massive rewrite of copyright law is necessary to "save" journalism.

All are proposing some form of new copyright laws to make it harder for publications to rewrite news scoops that first appear elsewhere. Schultz endorses a specific proposal to ban any publishers from summarizing others' reports for at least 24 hours.

Recommendations of this sort should frighten anyone who cares about a free press. But one would think that journalists would be especially suspicious of any proposals to give someone ownership -- even if temporary -- over information.

Certainly, it wouldn't serve readers' interests to prevent one publication from rewriting and/or linking to another's articles. If the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on something of national importance, isn't it a good thing that readers in, say, New York, who might not think to visit the Plain Dealer Web site, are able to learn of that story via Google News? And if the Cleveland Plain Dealer honestly believes the answer to that question is no, the paper has the ability to keep its pages out of Google's results. Or it could refrain from putting them online altogether.

Schultz has special contempt for "aggregators" that, she claims, make newspapers redundant. "Parasitic aggregators reprint or rewrite newspaper stories, making the originator redundant and drawing ad revenue away from newspapers at rates the publishers can't match." she complains. "The inevitable consequence: diminished revenue and staff cuts."

That aggregators also send traffic -- and potential ad eyeballs -- back to news sites seems to have escaped her.

Besides, some former advertisers have stopped spending as much on newspapers for reasons having nothing to do with aggregators. Newspapers' classifieds revenue dropped from around $20 billion in 2000 to $10 billion last year as listings migrated to the free Craigslist -- a site that no one would accuse of aggregating news.

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11 comments about "Huh? Newspaper Columnist Calls For Copyrighting News".
  1. Joshua Chasin from comScore , June 30, 2009 at 4:34 p.m.

    Similarly, I believe that the horseless carraige should be outlawed. Those things are killing the stable business!

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 30, 2009 at 4:53 p.m.

    She is a very limited person.

  3. Frank Russo from RoughWave Advisory Group , June 30, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.

    The Free Press is not "free"; someone paid for the journalist to do his/her investigation and reporting. Perhaps a royalty system would work. If you were to use someone's song in a commercial application, you are supposed to pay royalties. Why not do the same for other kinds of content.

  4. Mark Moran from Dulcinea Media , June 30, 2009 at 5:08 p.m.

    This column violates Connie Schultz' law. Go directly to jail, do not collect $200. When a newspaper breaks a story, anyone else has to summarize that story in order to build upon it or present a alternative viewpoint. The proposed law gives the source breaking the story a 24-hour monopoly on the story. This sounds like a pretty severe infringement on the First Amendment. What is needed is a tighter definition of Fair Use, greater penalties for violation of it, and a practical mechanism for copyright owners to pursue Fair Use claims and seize any advertising revenue generated from the guilty parties.

  5. David Hawthorne from HCI LearningWorks , June 30, 2009 at 5:39 p.m.

    'You supply the pictures, and I'll supply the war,' was not the cry of the journalist, but of the publisher. Publishers have to evolve -again. How can you 'ad value' to the info you gather and organize? Thinks 'app-like'. Can I facilitate multiple perceptions and invidual viewpoints by tagging alternative data structures (fashion, chemistry, legislation, economic impact) to a that same photo/story? What additional info would I want vs. additional infor my wife, chile, friend, boss, would want? Would my customer pay me 25-cents, every time s/he wanta a 'photo/story' parsed for his own ideosyncratic perspective? Please, smart publishers must me in short supply!

  6. Rich Reader from WOMbuzz , July 1, 2009 at 2:39 a.m.

    Copyrighting copywriting. Genius.

  7. Dick Harrison , July 1, 2009 at 8:22 a.m.

    The proposed change to the copyright law does not prohibit other news outlets from reporting on a story within 24 hours or initial publication. IF they do their own investigative reporting.

    The proposed change does prohibit aggregators from stealing the valuable property of organizations that paid the reporters, editors and videographers who developed the story originally.

    The concept that "content wants to be free" is absurd. If there's no compensation for content there won't be any content. Except, perhaps, inane YouTube postings of people's pets being comically cute. No doubt diverting if one's mind has turned to mush, but not much of a basis upon which to build the informed electorate that's essential to a functioning democracy.

    It seems unlikely that the provised revision will be enected. Because without it investigative reporting will wither away. And when it does the poltroons who populate our political system will be able to gorge at the trough of political corruption with no fear of being found out. And they're shrewd enough to figure that out.

  8. Harrison Cochran from Aurora Publishing Co. , July 1, 2009 at 5:44 p.m.

    The rhetorical debate continues without much recognition of the disconnect between the value of news, which has nothing to do with the cost of producing it or it's "value to society," and the delivery of customer attention which was all that was being paid for by the advertiser on page, screen or airwaves.

  9. Walter Pike from PiKE , July 1, 2009 at 6:29 p.m.

    Some people just dont get it.

    Why should I pay you if I can get it for free. You just dont add value and maybe realise that when I buy a newspaper I am not buying a paper I am buying news, I really dont care where I get it.

    You can fight it as much as you like until you topple over into the tarpit of history.

  10. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , July 1, 2009 at 9:01 p.m.

    David H, Not only smart publishers in short supply, I doubt if they exist. They have been in CYA mode.

  11. Rebecca Rachmany from AdsVantage , July 2, 2009 at 3:08 a.m.

    This is almost as innovative as systematically slapping lawsuits on your customers. Maybe the RIAA will help push for this bill as well.