Saturday, June 27, 2009

Posner's Peculiar Proposal

Judge Richard Posner, one of the most prolific, provocative and brilliant judges, legal scholars and public intellectuals of all time (and the only blogger on the bench of whom I know), has come up with a frankly bizarre proposal to save newspapers. He wants to toughen up copyright law to make linking or paraphrasing without permission illegal. He may not realize that news websites can use embedded robots text code to prevent aggregator sites from linking if they so wish (few do). And to make linking without permission illegal would basically destroy the internet. Linking is what the "world wide web" is all about.

Here's his bottom line:
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.
Yes, newspapers are suffering and not just because of the drop in advertising revenue due to the recession. But a drastic change in copyright that would protect facts and prevent linking and would likely do nothing to rescue a lost business model surely isn't the answer.


PS: Mark Lemley has pointed me to an earlier article from 2003 by the same Judge Posner called "Misappropriation: A Dirge." The title says it all. It's hard to fit the 2003 piece with the above.

1 comment:

  1. Everything the newspaper industry says about copyright and the internet is almost ridiculous. I'm truly sad that the AP v. AHN case settled, if only because I wanted an actual ruling on hot news in the internet age. Now the AP can continue using it as a threat, while pretending that fair use doesn't apply to blogs.

    I'd truly love to see the terms of that settlement, though.