Is The End Of Independent News In Sight?

12th October 2015 / EU, Global, United Kingdom, United States

Is the end of the news aggregator, independent news and websites of bloggers in sight?

According to Matt Drudge it is. He is an American political commentator and the creator and editor of the Drudge Report, an online news aggregator.

His website, according to Alexa has a global website rank of 616 and ranks in the USA at 132 and according to Quantcast is receiving, we think around 3 million hits a day or 90 million a month.

In a startling unscheduled interview with Alex Jones on Drudge warns “that the very foundation of the free Internet is under severe threat from copyright laws that could ban independent media outlets, revealing that he was told directly by a Supreme Court Justice, “It’s over for me.”

Drudge claimed that copyright laws will prevent websites such as Drudge Report from linking to news stories.

Drudge explained “I had a Supreme Court Justice tell me it’s over for me,”  They’ve got the votes now to enforce copyright law, you’re out of there. They’re going to make it so you can’t even use headlines.”

“To have a Supreme Court Justice say to me it’s over, they’ve got the votes, which means time is limited,” he added.

Drudge ominously claimed that a day was coming soon when simply operating any independent website could be completely outlawed.

He also said in the 45 minute interview – “That will end it for me – fine – I’ve had a hell of a run,” mentioning as well that web users were being forced into the cyber “ghettos” of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Drudge went on to warn that the social media giants like Twitter and Facebook were literally devouring up content and strangling the organic growth of independent Internet news platforms. News aggregators like Google News was also mentioned; “Google News – hello anybody? The idiots reading that crap think there is actually a human there – there is no human there – you are being programmed to being automated even up to your news….a same corporate glaze over everything,” said Drudge.

“I’m just warning this country that yes, don’t get into this false sense that you are an individual when you’re on Facebook, no you’re not, you’re a pawn in their scheme,” said Drudge.

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It’s an interesting battleground that has been fought over in the last few years that Drudge feels is already lost.

One of America’s most influential conservative judges, Richard Posner, has proposed a ban on linking to online content without permission. The idea, he said in a blog post, is to prevent aggregators and bloggers from linking to newspaper websites without paying.

“Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion”.

As The Guardian points out, not only would Posner stop online media dead in their tracks, but he would also overturn long-established rules of fair use, which, among others things, allow for the reproduction of short excerpts of copyrighted material for the purposes of commentary, parody and the like – precisely what bloggers and aggregators do all the time.

In the end, Posner has conveniently forgotten, or somehow wasn’t aware that bloggers and aggregators do in fact drive considerable traffic to news sites, resulting in many more users seeing that content and therefore seeing their advertising that in itself drives up revenue.

In the EU, the law seems more water-tight … for now. Websites can link to freely available content without the permission of the copyright holder, the European Court of Justice says.

In this case, the court’s decision came after a dispute in Sweden between journalists and a web company that had posted links on its site to online news articles. A Swedish court had asked the EU court to consider whether this broke copyright law.

It established that The “position would be different” for links that bypass a paywall but in this case there was no case to answer.

Then there was an appeal. The court had to consider whether, under EU copyright law, authors have the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit any communication to the public of their works.

The court ruled that the law had not been broken because the articles in question were on the website in question and therefore already “freely available”.

“If the decision had gone the other way it would have broken the internet,” said Susan Hall, technology lawyer at Clarke Willmott. “The way we communicate online is predicated on sharing material, whether that’s links to Robert Peston on Bank of England interest rates, decisions of the European court or pictures of otters who look like Benedict Cumberbatch,” she said.

In the case of Matt Drudge, he then warned the American public about such cases making their way up the court system.

“You thought Obamacare was shocking? You thought some of these other decisions were shocking? Wait until these copyright laws work their way up and the Supreme Court decides you cannot have a website with news headlines linking across the board.”

Drudge is thought to be worth something in the region of $90-100 million and if he thinks its not worth the fight, then nor will anyone else.

What could change the rules in the EU is the The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and a proposed US-EU trade agreement that, similar to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), is being negotiated behind closed doors and could have negative impacts on copyright and Intellectual Property (IP) rights for the European and American public. At the moment we really don’t know the details due to the highly dubious and suspicious nature of the secret agreement.

Already in the UK, essentially, to be a news or current affairs publisher you must be registered as such with a government regulatory body. That this is a despicable idea goes without saying: it’s a reversal of the past three hundred years of liberty where we’ve been allowed to say or print whatever we want to subject only to the laws of libel, incitement to violence and pressing concerns of national security.

If a news or current affairs publisher is taken to court, by anyone, including the state, and not registered then no matter the outcome, in all circumstances, win or lose, the publisher can’t claim costs.

Worse, it doesn’t matter where your servers are. For that’s not what defines publication. It also doesn’t matter who the material is aimed at: nor even what language it is in. Publication happens if someone in the UK downloads whatever it is. That, in itself, is the act of publication. This effectively censors the entire world’s press and media in the United Kingdom.

If the copyright laws in the US do go the way that Drudge says then one can only assume that the UK’s downloading rules will also apply there.

The three politicians in the UK in 2013 who dreamt up this suppression strategem were the Prime Minister- David Cameron, the Leader of the Opposition -Ed Miliband and the Deputy Prime Minister – Nick Clegg. In itself, that’s an interesting commentary on the quality of those individuals and what they think of democracy and freedom of speech more generally.

With a US supreme court judge openly threatening one of the worlds biggest websites that its days are over for linking news stories, it is very worrying that the interests of corporate media looks set to totally dominate the internet, dictate the debate and determine what you see and read.

GrahamVanbergen – TruePublica


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