Thursday, 23 July 2009

News in fetters?

The latest Piratpartiet newsletter from Anna Troberg picks up on the Hamburg Declaration. This is a collection of newspaper publishers setting out their stall for the EU Commission for increased copyright protection on the Internet - with the aim of manipulating the legal structure to give them a preferential advantage to exploit the news - that is, changing the law to line their own pockets.

In the linked article is the quote "we no longer wish to be forced to give away property without having granted permission." which I find frankly bizarre.

My view on this is that, following the model set by the film and music industry the press have decided it is easier to lobby their way to a profit than to find a way to run an effective web based business. A key complaint is that aggregators and search engines are making money out of linking to their content and they want to be able to charge for content re-use.

But consider that:
  • Newspapers today make substantial use of free sources (reporting on news coming from 'citizen journalists', blogs and similar sources) and cross citation from other papers, TV and radio
  • Restrictions on reporting and citation are a limitation of free speech.
  • Many newspaper websites make substantial use of user generated content - blogs and user comments - to attract readers.
  • A newspaper is not forced to put items on the web.
  • Many publications already make some or all of it's content available on a registration only or subscription basis - like the Financial Times, Economist and New Scientist for example.
  • Search engines and aggregators drive traffic to newspapers. They provide free advertising for the newspapers.
  • Search engines link rather than copy material.
  • A website can simply prevent it's content being included in search engines - they just don't want to.
  • Nothing is stopping newspaper sites themselves providing news aggregation to increase their coverage and share of advertising revenue.

More laws aren't the answer.

For more on the debate round newspaper strategies for the digital age check out Debategraph - a reall nifty site I just discovered thanks to The Open Rights Group (also a good read).

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