Restricting Fair Use to Save the News: A Proposed Change in Copyright Law to Bring More Profit to News Reporting
Ryan T. Holte
Southern Illinois University School of Law
June 1, 2008
University of Florida Journal of Technology Law and Policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2008
If a newspaper today uncovered a monumental story and published it on their front page, readership would not change. The story would be on every major news website in minutes. All the twenty-four hour news stations would be reporting on the story within the hour. Despite secondary authors giving the original author credit for the story, the advertising revenue would not change hands. No consequential profit would fall upon the first reporter for the facts uncovered.
The news industry's future is bleak as well. Media corporation investors are calling for only three national newspapers, and the diverse flow of ideas myriad reporters provide will soon be gone. However, the forecast does not have to be so grim.
With just a slight change to the current fair use doctrine, newspapers could recover their loyal readership and could once again reap revenue for top-caliber news reporting. For twenty-four hours, national news websites could state a primary author's headline with a link to the story's homepage distributing the information to readers. The same day a story breaks, evening news channels could pay to license the facts, which would allow the initial reporter, or his newspaper, to recover more profit. Each newspaper in the country could reap revenue from its reporters while newly self-employed freelance journalists could find financial success in doing what they do best - researching and writing stories.
This article proposes a change to current copyright law to bring more profit in news reporting. The alteration centers around allowing journalists, and the companies they work for, to own 98% of the investigated and researched facts they uncover for twenty-four hours after the story is first published. Part I examines the current state of the media and the effect of the Internet on the news business. Part II summarizes the economic and public policies behind protecting information. Part III analyzes the current copyright law's protection of information while Part IV does the same with misappropriation law. Part V describes the proposed amendment to current copyright law, points out a few legal and practical obstacles to be resolved, and ultimately concludes that the benefits far outweigh the potential problems.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 40
Keywords: Copyright, News, Intellectual Property, Internet
JEL Classification: K11
Date posted: January 31, 2009 ; Last revised: July 18, 2009