Monday, May 18, 2009

Whoever said copyright was dull?

It is unrealistic to demand new business models from the press without giving it the legal tools to succeed. Here are a few things Congress can do:

- Bring copyright laws into the age of the search engine. Taking a portion of a copyrighted work can be protected under the "fair use" doctrine. But the kind of fair use in news reports, academics and the arts -- republishing a quote to comment on it, for example -- is not what search engines practice when they crawl the Web and ingest everything in their path.

Publishers should not have to choose between protecting their copyrights and shunning the search-engine databases that map the Internet. Journalism therefore needs a bright line imposed by statute: that the taking of entire Web pages by search engines, which is what powers their search functions, is not fair use but infringement.

Such a rule would be no more bold a step than the one Congress took in 1996 rewriting centuries of traditional libel law for the benefit of tech start-ups. It would take away from search engines the "just opt out" mantra -- repeated by Google's witness during the Kerry hearings -- and force them to negotiate with copyright holders over the value of their content.

From the Washington Post. Lots here to read, copy and share...

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