Old media takes another dying gasp: Irish newspapers to charge for links

When I say "old media" I refer to several mediums, including movie studios, TV networks and the recording industry. However, in this case, I am talking about, perhaps, the oldest of all -- the newspaper. It seems that the once-desirable rags may be one of the last forms of media to actually get it.

To that end, the licensing body that represents the Irish nations newspapers seems bent on going forward with a plan to wring fees out of any website that links to its material. To that end, the group issued a statement today, reading, in part, that: "The sort of activities which constitute "copying" for these purposes are the photocopying of newspaper articles, placing of newspaper articles on an intranet website, viewing of articles on a website hosted by a press cutting agency and the sending of articles to clients or other third parties".

That does not sound wholly unreasonable -- after all, only unreputable sites are lifting articles and republishing them without permission. It no doubt happens to BetaNews posts as well. Most sites include a quote and a link to the source.

Links are Copyrightable

If the above sounded reasonable, then I understand. But here is where this whole statement takes a sharp turn south. You see, the NNI went on to state that it had "made a submission to the effect that our view of existing legislation is that the display and transmission of links does constitute an infringement of copyright and our existing copyright law should not be amended in the manner discussed in the Consultation Paper".

The agency tries to temper its stance by telling us that it "understands" that we email links to one another as part of our communication process, and that it would not want to impinge on that right.

Is this the End?

I will give them one thing: the idea is original. It is destined to fail in my opinion, but is unique nonetheless. Previously newspapers have tried the firewall technique -- most notably the Wall Street Journal, but even smaller publishers around the country, such as the (Delaware) News Journal and the (Florida) Sun Sentinel have given that one a shot. A simple search on the web for "[newspaper name] firewall" will bring up work-arounds of all sorts.

So where does it go from here? At the moment, the NNI seems unwilling to back down, but so was the RIAA in the face of services like Napster. In fact, even when finally relented the music publishing group still tried one last effort -- a ridiculous DRM scheme. Now the MPAA and newspapers seem destined to follow that same path, except newspapers may not survive to see the end of it.

As Robert X Cringely has pointed out in his piece about Hollywood, tech will win in the end. It is a matter of getting on board or getting run over. Now it is time for Ireland to learn the lessons of German newspapers. Be careful what you wish for -- when those links go, so does your traffic!

Photo Credit: Lucia Pitter/Shutterstock

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