The Great American Newspaper Solution: Sue!

The newspapers of yore had two dependable revenue streams: subscribers and advertisers. Today’s broadsheets draw money from the same sources, but funding problems at even the most mainstream papers are commonplace.

Murdoch and his News Corporation, ever the industry leader, have a plan to put content behind paywalls, remove stories from search engine indices, and eventually bring suit against those who reproduce content from News Corp. papers on blogs and websites. Lawsuits of this kind would be based on the violation of fair use, a copyright law that allows the limited reproduction of copyrighted material without the consent of its original producer.

Wired reported last week that a Little Guy has perhaps beaten Murdoch to the punch: Steve Gibson of a Las Vegas firm presumes that there exists inherent value in newspaper copy and evidently has a strict personal interpretation of fair use he is willing to test in the courts. His strategy is to open up a third revenue stream for newspapers, a backdoor one: settlements from copyright infringement suits.

Gibson is now in the business of buying newspapers’ copyrights and then suing when he finds a violation, i.e. when newspaper content is reproduced on a personal blog or website without the newspaper’s consent.

As The Economist said recently about the allegedly bloated American justice system, it seems citizens need a law degree to stay out of jail. In this case, people are perhaps justly surprised when they are slapped with a lawsuit for doing what everyone has been doing for the last decade: reproducing content posted by online newspapers.

Is this the way we want to save newspapers? By suing those who evidently value content enough to reproduce it? When laissez-faire economics leaves a regulation vacuum, the vultures start the circle, looking to pick off innocent prey.

France, for example, has passed legislation regulating Internet downloading. Now, whatever you think of this legislation (follow the link and you’ll see that even the law’s advocates have misgivings about some its directives), it is an attempt made by the government to regulate the Internet. The point is that government action around which there is a conversation is clearer than the imperceptible establishment of legal precedent by clever lawyers.

Let's not rely a scheme to save news producers, let's discuss a route to just commerce that will keep people informed and journalists paid to do journalism. 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, user: Tene

Elon Musk's SpaceX approved to launch 7,518 Starlink satellites into orbit

SpaceX plans to launch about 12,000 internet-providing satellites into orbit over the next six years.

Technology & Innovation
  • SpaceX plans to launch 1,600 satellites over the next few years, and to complete its full network over the next six.
  • Blanketing the globe with wireless internet-providing satellites could have big implications for financial institutions and people in rural areas.
  • Some are concerned about the proliferation of space debris in Earth's orbit.
Keep reading Show less

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.