Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Righting Copyright

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Righting Copyright

Article excerpt

Trick question: What is, in the words of certain self-appointed New Media experts, a "dangerous" or "astonishingly creepy idea" that "would kill the Internet" and advance a "protectionist" agenda that is "very hazardous to the health of the First Amendment"?

Would you believe a simple change to the copyright law that would restore the common-law principle of unfair competition?

This idea of giving content creators like newspapers the right to pursue aggregators who steal content -- and therefore forcing free-riders to either cease operations, license content or simply provide links and headlines like Google News -- has been kicking around for a few months. First Amendment attorneys Bruce Sanford and Bruce D. Brown of Baker & Hostetler's D.C. office floated it in The Washington Post this spring. Federal appellate Judge Richard Posner suggested something similar in the blog he does with Nobel economist Gary Becker.

But it took a column by the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Connie Schultz to really touch off a firestorm of controversy in the blogosphere -- and, best of all, get newspapers thinking about a measure that protects the value of news and information content they create at great cost. Schultz discussed the modest proposals of brothers Daniel and David Marburger, an academic economist and attorney at Baker & Hostetler's Cleveland office, respectively.

They analyzed the increasingly grave problem of "parasitic aggregators" competing for scarce ad dollars and share against news originators -- by borrowing (and not just linking to) the originators' own content. …

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