A push to tweak existing copyright laws to help newspapers profit from the content they produce has attracted some very vocal opposition in a short span of time, but the idea continues to gain currency nevertheless. Jason Klein, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Network, says he supports a rethinking of the current copyright regime, although he stops short of endorsing one suggested blueprint for accomplishing it.
"Part of the challenge around investment in quality, original investigative journalism is that it gets ripped off so quickly without attribution," said Klein, speaking from the stage this morning at a panel discussion on the future of media hosted by Gotham Media Ventures. "Google picks it up and profits from it. Other entities rewrite stories very quickly. And all the copyright laws were written in an era before the internet emerged and this was a real trend.
"I'm not an intellectual property attorney but it certainly seems to me that this is a very good time to revisit the copyright protection that newspapers get for original journalism in this era," Klein added. "It's time this gets looked at much more carefully."
The National Newspaper Network is a marketing partnership between the Newspaper Association of America and numerous newspaper publishers; partner companies include The New York Times Co., Hearst, Tribune, MediaNews Group, Gannett and Advance, among many others.
After the panel discussion concluded, I asked Klein whether his remarks mean that NNN or NAA plan to get behind the proposal put forth by brothers David and Daniel Marburger, a First Amendment lawyer and an economics professor. Their plan would limit the ability of "parasitic aggregators" to summarize and link to news stories. Klein declined to comment specifically on the Marburger plan, saying he wasn't familiar enough with its details.
"But in the case of newspaper content," he said, "once it gets put out there, at the moment, almost anyone can pick it up and do almost anything they want with it with very little restriction. And, while that might've made sense in an [earlier] era, and it's certainly defended by the First Amendment in some arenas, I think people have to look at whether it's gone too far."
"Look, it's certainly a delicate topic because who wants to invite more government regulation in any realm?" he added. "But I think there's a growing chorus saying it's time to reevaluate this."
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