Let's Screw Up the Entire Internet to Save Newspapers

The hot new idea among people who think about "journalism," and the sanctity thereof: let's ban linking, on the internet! Let's also ban wheels, in order to save the horse industry. Let's also ban talking about things!

This whole argument is premised on the assumption that we must save newspapers. At the cost of making the internet into an inefficient mess! So Richard Posner, professional smart man and US Appeals Court judge who writes 23,000 words per day, floated the idea of banning links (and more!), so internet cannibals don't keep stealing newspaper content for nothing:

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.

Periods, Richard Posner. Try them. To break up text. What you may notice here is that Posner proposes banning linking or paraphrasing copyrighted materials. The problem: this is America dude, we say what we fucking want, amirite?

You can copyright a news story, but you can't copyright the news. "The news" just means "things that happen in the world." What would it mean, in practice, to make it illegal to paraphrase a copyrighted news story? Summing up, for example, political events, or a sports controversy, or even a fashion trend, could be interpreted as paraphrasing copyrighted material. So let's ban talking about anything. And banning links will help us make our references even more obscure, by making it impossible for anyone to refer to source materials! Good idea, Posner. This gross oversimplification makes you look none too freedom-loving!

We all know journalism happens only at newspapers. Better to protect them at all costs than to invest in the murky "future."

This idea is supported by a newspaper columnist! Connie Schultz, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer (who's married to a senator, btw, nothing to see here), also touts the idea of giving newspapers a 24-hour injunction on news they post, during which time it's all theirs, and can't be aggregated by others online.

Fine. You can have your injunction. But you can't stop anyone from discussing, and writing about, current events. As they happen. Go read all those "Twitter Generation" stories you guys are always writing! The idea that it's worth crippling the entire free flow of information on the internet in order to add to the bottom line of newspaper companies is prima facie idiotic. I guess you could also help save newspapers by passing a law that everyone has to buy one every day, or by making it illegal for TV news to exist. That doesn't make those things good ideas.

If Bill Gates pledged to make it so computers could not be operated properly until the user could prove they had read today's Cleveland Plain-Dealer that might save a reporter and he is a monster for not doing so, QED.
[Pic: Chronicling America]