By Caroline Little
Every day, city hall reporters at newspapers around the country distill hours of city council meetings into cogent stories that inform readers about how their elected officials are spending their tax dollars. Sports reporters document the successes of local teams. Investigative reporters dig through documents to expose government corruption, waste or ineffectiveness.
This journalism plays a vital role in local communities and in our nation’s democracy. But it also costs money: newspapers continue to invest more than $5 billion a year in journalism, far more than any other medium in the United States. Newspapers deliver news and information when and where readers want it, in print, digital and mobile platforms.
To do that, we must have fair copyright laws to enable newspapers to receive fair compensation in support of this journalism.
This year, the House Judiciary Committee, the Commerce Department, the Copyright Office and others are looking at potential changes to the Copyright Act. The newspaper industry applauds these efforts to ensure that copyright law is best suited for the digital age. We hope that any changes to the Copyright Act will continue to ensure that content creators – including those who invest in journalism – receive fair compensation.
This continued protection is particularly important today because some companies exist solely to aggregate content from news websites for the sole purpose of selling this content to business users at a considerable profit.
Newspapers’ concern in this area is not the personal use of newspaper-generated content but rather its use by businesses that benefit financially through the unlicensed monetization of that content. By taking newspaper content without paying for it, these companies undercut the fundamental economic model that supports journalism that is so important to our communities.
As an example of the importance of copyright protection, consider a case last year that was decided by a federal judge in New York. The case involved Meltwater, a for-profit service, which scraped Associated Press articles from the Internet and resold verbatim excerpts to subscribers.
The AP sued the news service for copyright infringement, and the court properly found that the re-publication of these articles was not “fair use,” a defense that provides a limited exception from the general rule that content users must receive permission from copyright holders to use their content.
Caroline Little is president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America.