Respect for Copyright, Compensation for Publishers


Steve Townsley – Director of Licensing and Publishers Sales

As the advertising-based model has eroded at America’s newspapers during the past decade publishers have had to reach out for new sources of revenue in order to support their newsrooms.  Among some of the efforts to replace advertising revenue have been online paywalls, increased subscription rates, specialty websites, affinity clubs/offerings (i.e. wine clubs, sponsored travel opportunities), and special events.

What has generally been overlooked is the opportunity to monetize existing content.  I would contend that publishers under value the original content that their reporters and editors produce.  Contrary to the widely voiced shibboleth that “all content on the web wants to be free,” all creators of content should be compensated and their copyrights and brands protected.  The internet and the companies and individuals that rely upon it would be far poorer if it were bereft of the reporting done by news organizations.

Historically some individual newspapers and wire services have been able to syndicate individual columnists or features.  This model, too, has come under great pressure as consumers of content are no longer brand or platform specific but seek out information from a widening variety of sources.  This can take the form of tweets, blogs, online posts, etc.…not just articles from legacy news sources whether in print or online.

For far too long content aggregators have been “lax” in attributing the content that they provide to their customers… as well as paying for it.  Some organizations willfully ignore publishers’ right to earn income from the valuable copyrighted content they publish. That attitude, however, is undergoing a major change.  Aggregators and their clients have become more sensitive to the possibility of litigation and the ensuing negative publicity.

In case after case both in the US and abroad aggregators are learning the hard lesson that it is appropriate to provide attribution and compensation for the edit that they are accessing from publisher websites.  Just recently the Associated Press won a significant legal settlement from the Meltwater Group and Dow Jones was victorious in court against Ransquawk for unauthorized use of its content.

Organizations such as the Software Information Industry (SIIA), Newspaper Association of America (NAA), and Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) are actively policing the internet for examples of online piracy.  Their desire is not to punish “bad actors” but to make sure that their publishers content and brands are respected.  Going forward the hope is that aggregators will respect copyrights and make compensation for content the norm.