Newsright: Righthaven 2.0
posted at 7:58 pm on January 13, 2012 by Laura Curtis
The legacy media has been trying desperately to figure out a way to charge bloggers and aggregators for republishing their content. Remember when the AP wanted to charge for excerpts per word? And then there was notorious copyright troll Righthaven, which was aggressively defended by the Las Vegas Review Journal as the method of “saving journalism” and which has since been sued out of existence.
Now we have Newsright – a “news registry” company which the Washington Post says aims “to convert unauthorized websites, blogs and other newsgathering services into paying customers.” Let’s hope they learn from Righthaven’s mistakes and actually take Fair Use into account instead of just trying to bully bloggers out of existence.
The fact that about half of Newsright’s staff are lawyers makes that hope seem kind of futile, though.
How will Newsright’s service work? NewsRight’s president and CEO, David Westin explains,
when an item is read on a browser, it sends a signal to the database in San Francisco that attaches the origin of the item, what website it appeared on, and the geographic area. Every time the item is used, the data is gathered and sent to publishers. The code attached to the piece specifies the publisher, keywords, dates, and the author. It’s up to the publisher as to what they assign the code to. Initially most items were assigned to the complete document, but increasingly publishers are attaching once to the headline, once to the lead, and once to the text. This has the advantage of giving more nuanced reporting.
This, like SOPA, is a fairly bipartisan issue. Lefty David Sirota sums up blogger concerns well in this video.
“What I worry about is that it ends up being used as a financial weapon against those voices out there who are citing that information in order to challenge it, scrutinize it, and question it. That you can imagine a situation where let’s say a blogger is out there, or an independent journalist is out there citing, excerpting pieces of a widely cited, let’s say a New York Times story or other news publication story and debunking it, showing where it’s wrong. And that news organization doesn’t like that. Then that news organization calls up that independent journalist and says ‘You have to pay us for the privilege of excerpting our story.’ Now if that is allowed to stand you’ve potentially created the situation where the democratic, small-d freedom of questioning and challenging what’s in the public square incurs an undue financial penalty.”
All of these efforts are to solve the problem of the legacy media trying to navigate and survive in a new media world. But instead of following the Hollywood model of enforcing digital rights management in ways that make their product less useful to consumers, they might consider trying something completely different. An amusing comment from Marcus Carab at the Techdirt article provides one example:
Dear AP – for a tenth of what you are spending on all these lawyers, you could have set up a premium news service with banks of additional quotes & photos that didn’t run in the articles, early access to some stuff, etc. and offered it to all these same bloggers. Sincerely, An Actual Business Model