It's always nice to see when traditional media organizations show some understanding of the way the web works.
Last week, we reported on proposed legislation in Germany that seeks to have news aggregators pay to use snippets of (and possibly links to) publishers' content. As discussed in a previous article, there are a lot of gray lines around what should even be considered an aggregator. Also discussed, was how such legislation could set a dangerous precedent for the web, which in theory, could end up meaning people would have to pay to link to things.
The Washington Times, a newspaper that has been around since 1982, has posted an editorial on the proposal, taking a stance hardly typical of newspapers. The editorial, mind you, isn't just from one staff writer. It's from "The Washington Times". In it, the publication says:
This action has far more to do with protectionism than protecting intellectual property rights. Websites such as the indispensable Drudge Report, Times 24/7, Real Clear Politics, Digg, Fark and Reddit collect news from sources spread across the Web. These sites are wildly popular because they draw the important stories together in one convenient place, fulfilling a very specific need among a news-hungry public.
Far from leeching off newspapers and print journalists, aggregators are essential to spreading the word about important stories. They drive significant traffic, which in turn generates revenue for content providers. It’s a win for both sides. For publishers that disagree, Google already includes a simple mechanism for websites to exclude themselves from search results. If the purported theft of content were truly the issue, that would end the discussion. Emphasis added.
Usually, newspapers are on the other side of the discussion. Often, not only discussion, but action. NewsRight, for example, is an organization seeking payment from aggregators, which is comprised of 29 news organizations, accounting for 841 sites.
A few years back (this debate has been going on for a long time), Reuters indicated that it had a similar view to the one being expressed by The Washington Times today, as Media President Chris Ahearn wrote:
I believe in the link economy. Please feel free to link to our stories — it adds value to all producers of content. I believe you should play fair and encourage your readers to read-around to what others are producing if you use it and find it interesting.
Google liked this stance:
This week, a couple of new efforts have emerged around the attribution part of the situation. One is the Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation, and the other is the "Curator's Code". The former is a group of publishers looking to create a set of blogging guidelines. The latter has developed symbols to represent "via" and "hat tip" links.
In my own opinion, and based on what I've read from others in the industry, there isn't a whole lot of collective faith in either approach.