Tollbooths and Newsstands on the Information Superhighway
12 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2013 Last revised: 24 Feb 2014
Date Written: February 18, 2014
The Internet has made it easier than ever before to stay informed on current events — and without ever needing to pick up, let alone pay for, a newspaper. But recent litigation and legislation in the United States and Europe have challenged the cost-free flow of such information. The opposition to these recent legal developments is rooted in a belief that stronger intellectual property protections result in higher tolls, which, in turn, price many consumers out of accessing and using the information.
But overlooked has been an existential consideration: information-gathering is expensive, and absent efficient tolls there will be far less information to access at all, regardless of cost. The United States Supreme Court recognized this principle in Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises as it applies more narrowly to whether copyright law inhibits free expression. Identifying the particular importance of incentives for newsgatherers, this Essay extends the Harper & Row rationale beyond its copyright mooring.
In light of the continued withering corps of professional newsgatherers, these legal developments actually could enhance the exchange of information and ideas to the extent they preserve incentives for news publishers. This Essay proffers that copyright expansions actually can increase access and thereby serve important copyright and First Amendment values.
Keywords: Newspapers, Copyright, Intellectual Property, Aggregators, Internet, Information Policy, First Amendment, Incentives
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