Information wants to be free, reporters want to be paid, Part 38

Everybody is either trying to save my job or put me out of business.

A recent suggestion from a savior is to strengthen the “hot news doctrine.” This concept is embodied in International News Service v. Associated Press, in which INS was grabbing AP copy, rewriting it and selling it to newspapers in competition with AP.

In a posting on Business Insider, Dr. Eric Clemons a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Nehal Madhani, a graduate of the Wharton School, offer the idea that newspapers could be saved from their universally presumed deaths — a popular notion hardly supported by the facts — by strengthening the hot news doctrine.

“A first suggestion would be to provide newspaper and other journalistic content special protection,” they write, “so that no part of any story from any daily periodical could be reposted in an online aggregator, or used online for any use other than commentary on the article, for 24 hours; similarly, no part of any story from any weekly publication could be reposted in an online aggregator or for any use purpose other than commentary, for one week.  A stronger form of restriction, the ‘hot news doctrine’, would prevent rebroadcast not merely of the wording of the article itself, but of its essence; it’s not clear if the hot news doctrine is truly applicable or if the courts will allow the necessary extensions to make the doctrine applicable.”

One problem is that most news websites seek viewers and are made more profitable, not less, by other websites sending traffic, whether the news site is supported by advertising made more valuable by the hits or the news is behind a pay wall.

Another problem is that such a hot news doctrine blocking use of the “essence” might actually deter the news cycle. Currently there is nothing preventing one news medium, upon seeing a breaking news report from a competitor, from doing its own original reporting by going to the original source and getting the facts independently, often expanding the scope of the reporting and correcting errors made by the medium that first reported it.

Yes, the business model could use some tweaking, but I’m not sure this is the answer.

And, of course, the information wants to free types are taking pot shots at the posting.


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