Almost every day, members of the White House Press Corps challenge the press secretary about the President’s executive actions and legislative initiatives. Elsewhere, sports reporters are writing about the outcome of professional sporting events. At the same time, investigative journalists pore over public records to determine whether or not corporate executives are telling the truth.
This is the story of American journalism.
A Vital Role
Journalism plays a vital role in promoting public integrity, providing us with helpful life hacks, informing us about whether or not our team won, prognosticating about the nature of our day with horoscopes, and letting us know whether or not we should bring an umbrella to work. In short, newspapers disseminate practical knowledge every single day.
That costs money. A fact that seems to fade more from our minds with each bit of free information we consume online.
In fact, newspapers invest more than $5 billion every year in journalism. That’s more than any other medium in the United States. Newspapers also invest resources to make their presence ubiquitous: People can read news stories on a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, a desktop, or an old-fashioned hard copy.
Fair Copyright Laws
To continue to provide this kind of service, newspapers must be protected with fair copyright laws. That way, news stories are considered the property of the publication and anyone who steals (i.e., copies) a story is subject to legal penalties.
That’s why the newspaper industry is applauding the efforts by the House Judiciary Committee, the Copyright Office, and the Commerce Department to revamp changes to the Copyright Act. The law needs to be updated to reflect copyright violations that are unique to the Information Age.
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This is important because some websites do nothing more than aggregate content from news sites that offer unique content. The aggregated content is typically sold to business users for a profit. That may seem like a clever way for the aggregators to make money, but it’s at the expense of people who poured time, effort, and money into original reporting.
The people who actually produced the content don’t see any of that money. That means that the journalists and news organizations that invested resources into original reporting are effectively having that reporting stolen from them.
News organizations should be compensated for the work that they do so that they, like any other business, can grow. That growth will lead to more hiring, more investigative reports, and more practical knowledge shared with their audiences.
On the other hand, without proper compensation, newspapers risk losing money. That means layoffs, less reporting, and less useful information for their audiences.
Hopefully, the Copyright Act will be revised to ensure proper protection of publications that produce original content. That might frustrate some news aggregators, but in the long run it’s a much better option than an economic disincentive to produce informative reporting.