22 May 2009

Morons Trying to Drum Up Billable HOurs

So, two lawyers specializing in IP litigation have proposed changes in copyright and anti-trust law to bolster newspapers.

Unsurprisingly, their proposals would create an explosion of litigation, which would mean that they could buy that yacht that they have their eye on.

What they propose:
  • Ummm....Making search engines indexing web sites a copyright violation?
    • The idea here is that creating an index is a copyright violation, which means that things like the old index of periodicals in the library, an essential research tool, would be illegal.
  • And allow newspapers to price fix, so that they can all start charging for online content.
    • Let's note that newspapers are not in the business of selling the content called "news", they are in the business of selling advertising. The cost of purchasing a paper only covers the cost of the ink, paper, and printing. That's why, when the chains started buying up newspapers, and cutting newsrooms about 2 decades ago, they could generate those 20%+ margins on a much crappier product.
    • The threat to newspapers is not people reading their news online, it's Craig's List. It's the loss of classified ad revenue that has put these institutions behind the financial 8-ball
      • Oh, yes, there's also the issue of accumulating insane levels of debt to build these chains in the first place.
  • Federalizing the "hot news" doctrine.
    • This one is just plain stupid. It's a 1918 decision which says that a news service cannot take a story from another, rewrite it, and pass it off as it's own, which is a good idea, but they want to make the reporting that a news source broke a story, like, "The Wall Street Journal reported today that sources in the Treasury have determined
As Timothy Karr notes
But consider this. Just a few years ago, the average profit margin for newspapers was 20 percent -- with some raking in twice as much or more.

"Did they use these astronomical profits to invest in the quality of their products or to innovate for the future?" asked Free Press' Craig Aaron on Thursday. "No. They just bought up more newspapers and TV stations." (On May 12 Free Press released a National Journalism Strategy that outlines forward-thinking policies to save journalism, and not merely prop up the creaking old guard.)
(emphasis mine)

I am not concerned about the future of news papers, I am concerned about the future of journalism......Scratch that...I am concerned about the present of journalism, because the professionals out there, whether covering George W. Bush, the housing bubble, or just publishing this bit of crap, seems to be in a state of incompetent free fall.

Professional journalism today in the United States is a captive of those that they cover, and so people like me go to foreign and not-for-profit sources to find our news.


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