Did you hear the one about the organisation ‘representing’ newspapers copyright in Ireland sending threatening letters to voluntary organisations/charities who publish links to newspaper articles on their own websites about items that may be of interest to readers? (Breathe it’s a long sentence I know, sorry).
That’s links dear reader- not complete articles or scans of them. Links.
Women’s Aid – the organisation which works to provide support to those who experience domestic violence are one of the groups who have been asked to pay for linking to content. You can read the very detailed and rightfully challenging response of their legal team to the Newspaper Licensing Ireland efforts. (oops I just linked there to something, my bad, phew it’s not on a newspaper site!)
These same newspapers have buttons on their websites encouraging people to SHARE those articles via their friends and followers.
You know the buttons-
Some of these newspapers encourage us to leave comments on their pages and engage in conversation for the benefit of other readers (and oh maybe to feed our own egos by spouting off and possibly pissing off columnists for having our own opinions about their opinions). It’s all about the social. It’s taking years to get used to and develop and some publications are better than others and the disruption of their industry has been one very long saga.
These newspapers do not charge for reading their websites. They have some advertising. Some have apps where you can buy the edition for your mobile device (I even pay a subscription to one of them). But mostly for the last few years they have either been pulling their hair out about how to survive or sticking their heads in the sand.
I spend a lot of time pointing over 6000 followers on twitter and hundreds of friends on facebook to articles I think they are/should be interested in – in fact many journalists and writers send me messages asking me to tweet links to various things to my readers.
These links get retweeted on or shared on facebook or emailed to others and it spreads. Some may buy a paper on the basis of seeing the article or subscribe to an online service, some may click on advertising on the webpage.
I do this a) because I can b) for the betterment of humankind (bear with me) and c) because that is how media consumption and comment has developed. It’s like ‘What it says in the Papers’ ala moi – I wonder have the NLI sent letters to RTE looking for money to be paid for talking about the content of papers in radio and tv programmes. I have for years linked to content on this blog, in email lists and message boards. I regularly send links to colleagues in work about items that are or interest. Where I have been in charge of the content and discussion I have discouraged the publication of copy on other sites as I believed it was an infringement and unfair. Links were the way of protecting people and making sure that readers read things where they should be read.
Some of these newspapers link to my website – I don’t charge them, in fact I am very happy (in fact honoured) that they do so. On a not very related point I also have not charged them for the stories they have stolen over the years or ideas that writers have obtained by following up on something I have written about.
It appears that the organisation which represents the interests of newspapers wants people or organisations who link back to their content to buy a licence. They think that we are broadcasters or reproducing their content and should pay for the privilege of sending readers to their pages to read their content. I await my invoice.
Dear newspapers (or the organisation which represents you which may be on a solo run) if you do not want people to link to your content and comment on your articles and read your output put up a fecking paywall and stop scaring the voluntary sector and other vulnerable bodies with your twisted logic and latest money making wheeze. The huge crisis facing newspapers and publishing in Ireland is not going to be solved by charging for linking to your content. Reading it? Maybe. Who knows.
No doubt to be continued.