Nicholas Carlson|Jul. 2, 2009, 8:30 AM
Famous and respected New York Judge Richard Posner says maybe we should ban links to save newspapers.
From his blog: Imagine if the New York Times migrated entirely to the World Wide Web. Could it support, out of advertising and subscriber revenues, as large a news-gathering apparatus as it does today? This seems unlikely, because it is much easier to create a web site and free ride on other sites than to create a print newspaper and free ride on other print newspapers, in part because of the lag in print publication; what is staler than last week’s news.
Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion.
Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan, who brought the Judge’s argument to our attention, had this to say about it:
The problem: this is America dude, we say what we fucking want, amirite?
You can copyright a news story, but you can’t copyright the news. “The news” just means “things that happen in the world.” What would it mean, in practice, to make it illegal to paraphrase a copyrighted news story? Summing up, for example, political events, or a sports controversy, or even a fashion trend, could be interpreted as paraphrasing copyrighted material. So let’s ban talking about anything. And banning links will help us make our references even more obscure, by making it impossible for anyone to refer to source materials! Good idea, Posner. This gross oversimplification makes you look none too freedom-loving!
What we want to know is what would the Judge do with TV news, which gets all its reporting, facts and story ideas from newspapers? According to Pew, 60% of Americans get their news from TV. By the Judge’s logic, shouldn’t they be forced to read a newspaper to get their news instead?