Plan to Change Copyright Law for Newspapers Has Merit

An interesting story was published June 29 on EditorandPublisher.com  regarding a move to have copyright laws changed to protect publishers of newspapers from aggregators who link to content and sell advertising. The concept is being promoted by David Marburger, a First Amendment attorney at the firm Baker and Hostetler, and his brother Daniel, an economics professor at Arkansas State University.

The gist of the concept is that for newspapers to remain viable as businesses,  their editorial content must be protected.  This would give newspapers more value with readers and with potential advertisers, as editorial content would not be allowed to be linked to and used by news aggregators until 24 hours after appearing on the newspaper’s web site.

The Marburgers were interviewed  this past Sunday by columnist Connie Schultz of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“You have all these free riders like Daily Beast and Newser and local television stations aggregating your stories online while diverting readers and advertisers from your site,” David Marburger told Schultz. “And they’re doing it for a fraction of the cost of the newspapers that generated the original copy. And it hit me: All those theories out there on how to prop up newspapers — why isn’t anyone saying this? Why aren’t we talking about how this free-riding by aggregators affects the market rate for everyone? “

With newspapers barely holding on, in fact Gannett announced plans to lay off  hundreds of workers from its community newspapers today, something that can protect them as viable entities deserves to be looked  at closely. 

As communicators, it behooves us to properly position clients for a solid editorial story in a major newspaper outlet.  Having other news sites link to those stories enhances the overall reach and impact.  However, if there is no original newspaper to place that story in, then we’re all in trouble.

Tom Cosentino

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