Yes, it’s coming! Newspapers will want bloggers to “obey” the rules of the road. I finally read about this at the New York Times. Here’s the issue in a nutshell as I explained it to Congressman Dave Camp:
An issue is stirring among the blogosphere and Newspapers about intellectual property and plagiary. Newspapers are thinking about getting organized to bring standards that bloggers may need to comply with. There are MANY sides to this discussion.
Here is a hypothetical story:
John Doe has a simple website and wants people to read it. So, he sees an article at the Chicago Tribune website. It’s about the same topic his website fans are interested in. He copies and pastes article into his own website, so it looks like his work, but it’s not. He doesn’t see anything wrong with this and the Chicago Tribune may not be entirely angry.
Because Chicago Tribune readers read the paper newspaper at home, not so much online, JohnDoe.com’s copied article gets more Internet readers because he’s a popular guy among bloggers.
This isn’t simple copyright violation. It’s not like XEROXING a book and re-selling it. Newspapers quote each other and re-write each other’s news articles all the time. TV hosts and pundits love to quote each other. If the news media stopped talking about each other, probably 80% of their content would vanish!
So, basically, the Chicago Tribune wants John Doe to tell his friends about their article, but to at least give them some credit. How do we do that? What will the rules of the road be?
That is what you will see start to be discussed in Congress.
Here are some suggestions I have for when this issue comes across your desk:
1. Remember that bloggers are amateurs. Teach them like children who learn simple things every day. Give them much grace and use small words to educate them on Journalism ethics, which news writers and pundits are well-versed in.
2. Get a rounded view from Newspapers and Magazines, but also from blogging companies, such as Google (blogspot.com) and WordPress.com. Also, consider “sharing/link” services like Delicious.com and Digg.com where articles are “summarized” and linked to. Similarly would be Facebook “sharing” and Google’s “+1”. Also, tell the online communities openly that you want to hear from individual bloggers. TELL the people, don’t let the masses find out from someone else. Hear from all sides. Pundits are experts; amateur bloggers WANT to become experts.
3. This is more about technology than ethics. Copying and pasting the first 900 (or so) characters of an article is extremely normal in blogs and newspaper sites. RSS feeds may do this, hoping other websites will link back. A website that doesn’t want this is strange, but respected, such as ft.com.
So, perhaps websites could develop a “writer credit” technology. So, when John Doe likes the Chicago Tribune article, his blog has a place where he “rates” how much he copied the article.. something like “works copied (+50%)”, “works excerpted/summarized (-50%)”, “works cited (short quotes)”, “works re-written”, and “works consulted”. So, whenever someone reads the Tribune article on John Doe’s website, the Tribune will get online web credit. INTERNET traffic CREDIT is the issue for many websites and writers. The Tribune should also be able to choose whether they want to participate in this or not. John Doe can also offer such options on his own JohnDoe.com.
4. Blogging websites already have SOME solutions to this problem which the newspaper writers may not know about. This is a clash of professions: news writers aren’t web geeks; bloggers are often geeks, not ethic-experienced pundits. WordPress.com and others have already created ways to meet in the middle, both sides merely need help knowing it!
5. Remember, this is different from copyright stuff. News and blog WANTS other people quoting them. Writers merely want credit. Their goal is to be popular on the internet.. maybe they want numbers to show advertisers, maybe they are public speakers who want speaking invitations, maybe authors who want book deals, maybe subscription websites who want paid subscribers. Depending on the purpose, their needs will change. Everyone online wants to be famous and talked about, only in the “ethical” way, yet to be defined.
6. Encourage the private sector to develop their own guides and allow VERY simple membership. AP has a Stylebook which is available to the public. Bloggers might consider learning about such ethics, take an online test for a very small fee, and get a special code to display their membership on their blog. This way, people can respect that blogger. But, this must be VERY inexpensive and done PRIVATELY.
7. In summary.. Congress should have regulation that is a. well informed and b. minimal, placing most responsibility within the private sector.