Sunday, May 30, 2010

Web News Piracy

As a writer in the age of the internet, one gets a front seat perspective on the issue of "intellectual property". It is technically possible to cut and paste an article and run it in its entirety on a web site. It seems harmless, but it is far from it.

Writers and websites get paid a certain amount per thousand hits. If you summarize or link to an article so people click to see the source you cited, then you become a partner to someone who may have worked hours on researching, writing and perfecting an article. That is the internet fuctioning at its best.

One thing that web sites have in common with printed media is that they get paid for ads based on their proven circulation.This is logical. You want your ads seen by as many people as possible.

I have seen sites that reprin an article in its entirety and mention the source in tiny print. Maybe they provide a hyperlink. A tiny fraction of people click back to see the original article. If the article gets 1200 hits, then that means that those 1200 readers don't have to go to Associated Press, the National Review or other original sources. I have had people write an editor and praise him for something I wrote that I was not paid a dime for. Sites like this build up a wide variety of content and leech readership from providers of original content. If they provided a summary or introductory paragraphs and a link for the rest of the article, they would be helping modern day writers who are struggling to earn a living. Instead they are taking business away from them.

A site that I sometimes visit gets a little over 41,000 hits every day. Almost all of their articles are lifted from AP or existing newspapers. I would like to know what, if any permission they have to use the material that they reprint in its entirety. I randomly checked 12 articles and found one that was written by the site's authors. The other stories were written by AP or were taken from various newspapers. That means that over 90% of their hits come at the expense of legitimate news sources.

I would like to see news sites that lift articles like this post information about their copyright policies. Do they have an arrangement with the sources? Or do they think it's OK to avoid paying authors by lifting content?

Anyone who has written for a living is not doing it for fame. They are doing it to get paid. No one would reprint a newspaper and dare to sell it. But it happens all the time on web sites. If you look at a web site and see that you have to click over to the original source to read the whole story, that is helping writers and their employers. But if the whole story is lifted, and there is a tiny link at the end, then someone is being cheated. Sphere: Related Content

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