Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The absolutists strike again

The Newspaper Licensing Agency, who must rank as copyright absolutists by any definition,are about to start trying to control the use of hyperlinks, according to the Press Gazette. What is this? Bad enough that, through the NLA, much of the press should be trying to gain a revenue stream from what by definition should be ephemeral, but on what basis do they think they have an exploitable interest in hyperlinks?

The NLA caught a cold when it first started licensing use of press cuttings, basing the exercise on copyright not in the literary works (because the newspapers didn't necessarily own the copyright in them) but in the typographical arrangement - a type of copyright that previously had seemed to be utterly unimportant. Thanks to Marks & Spencer, this approach was knocked on the head by the House of Lords and the NLA went back to the drawing board and put together a licensing scheme that was after all based the literary copyright. Are they on another hiding to nothing here?

One can understand the importance for the press of replacing the dwindling revenue stream that printed newspapers produce, whether through sales or through licensing schemes. I read much more in the press on-line than on paper these days, and to press-cutting agencies and other professional consumers of journalism using hyperlinks is wonderful substitute for cutting up (or photocopying) newspapers. But if there is no copyright in a hyperlink, how to make money from it? Only a copyright absolutist could answer that.

1 comment:

Peter Groves said...

Having written that, I find that no less an authority than Judge Posner has been suggesting that the present predicament of the newspapers might necessitate some extension of copyright protection. See the Becker-Posner Blog, http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/index.html. I don't read his comments as advocating this solution, but it is interesting that he should even be raising the issue. Gary Becker does not endorse it, incidentally.


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