What's the essence of a newspaper?
I love that question. As the President and CEO of Stephens Media it gives me a chance to list the attributes of the newspaper business I love.
1. A good newspaper maintains a good local sales force which calls on every business in a given market, forming a relationship that bonds the newspaper to the business community. Few organizations, if any, have that kind of sales muscle. A well-managed newspaper sales force is truly a beautiful thing to behold.
2. Business partnerships with independent distributors that goes to every street every morning in the community. It's a remarkable feat when you consider that within a three-to-six hour window, news goes from computer and camera, to press, to newsprint, to bundles and to doorsteps. Three hundred and sixty five days a year.
3. The production crew that every night works their magical craft to produce a newspaper on deadline and then prepackages it with inserts. No misses. Even when there are mechanical problems, late news, or power outages. No misses. Ever.
And, of course, there are any number of people in various departments -- such as myself -- who help facilitate all of this.
But, if there's one thing that is "the essence" of a newspaper it is content -- the news, information, pictures and opinion that makes any given newspaper worth a reader's time and money.
It is the protection of that journalism that I want to talk about today.
Look at this way. Say I owned a beautiful 1967 Corvette and kept it parked in my front yard.
And you, being a Corvette enthusiast, saw my Vette from the street. You stopped and stood on the sidewalk admiring it. You liked it so much you called friends and gave them my address in case they also wanted to drive over for a gander.
There'd be nothing wrong with that. I like my '67 Vette and I keep in the front yard because I like people to see it.
But then, you entered my front yard, climbed into the front seat and drove it away.
I'm absolutely, 100% not OK with that. In fact, I'm calling the police and reporting that you stole my car.
Every jury in the land would convict you.
Yet, when it comes to copyrighted material -- news that my company spends money to gather and constitutes the essence of what we are as a business -- some people think they can not only look at it, but also steal it. And they do. They essentially step into the front yard and drive that content away.
Well, we at Stephens Media have decided to do something about it. And, I hope other publishers will join me.
We grubstaked and contracted with a company called Righthaven. It's a local technology company whose only job is to protect copyrighted content. It is our primary hope that Righthaven will stop people from stealing our stuff. It is our secondary hope, if Righthaven shows continued success, that it will find other clients looking for a solution to the theft of copyrighted material.
We're at the beginning stages of this. About 22 lawsuits have been filed against a variety of websites, ranging from those that report marijuana news to sports betting sites.
As a sidebar, one such site, PLAN, tried to defend itself by saying we picked on them because they are a politically liberal website. One media inquiry asked whether the "right" in "Righthaven" is an indication of a secret motive to pick on only copyright robbers who maintain politically left websites.
We can't fix crazy. Or paranoia. But we can fix pilfering.
If you operate a website (liberal or otherwise) and don't know what "fair use" is in the context of American copyright and Constitutional law, then I suggest you talk to your copyright lawyer and find out. Otherwise, at the risk of overusing this analogy, I'm callin' the police and gettin' my Vette back.
Postscript: If you'd like find out more about working with Righthaven to protect your copyrighted material or you would like to inquire about using any of my company's content, you may do so by contacting our general counsel, Mark Hinueber, at firstname.lastname@example.org.