Speaking to media writer and once-again entrepreneur Michael Wolff today about his Newser.com venture (he’ll be a guest on the next Naked Media, with Newser.com funder and co-founder Patrick Spain, August 7, 10a ET), it occurred to me there’s a sort of irony to news aggregation platforms, and those from whom they get their material.
Of course, Newser.com isn’t literally an aggregator. They may live off the news that others gather and produce, but they also synthesize it and summarize it in their own language. That would, at least for the time being, seem to protect them from the sort of DrudgeRetort vs. AP brouhaha that occurred when the Web site picked up the wire service’s material without enough re-crunching to distance itself from the original.
It wouldn’t be surprising if at some point those producing original material try to argue that even taking that material and rewording or repacking it, synthesizing it with others’ , is plagiarism at best, even a violation of copyright and fair use. Royalties are expected, after all, when someone samples a piece of a song to make another piece of music. I could see the same argument being made for the written word.
But here’s the irony: If the repackager is small and has minimal traffic and refuses to listen to automated or relatively low-level entreaties, it may not be worth the lawyer time and hassle of pursuing them. But if someone gets big enough to matter, it’s unwise from a business perspective to pursue them because the links they put up and the traffic they send you -- not to mention the branding and awareness -- will be worth enough that it also is likely to outweigh the benefit of shutting them down (assuming they’re not lifting entire stories, images, etc, willy nilly, and also assuming they link back).