Issues of fair use and copyright are increasingly having a bearing on our day to day lives. Corporations are converting the promise of the Internet to their own benefit, and in an attempt to extract every nickel from their work, are ignoring long held notions of fair use. In a discussion of copyright and fair rights concerning bloggers by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam: Media to Bloggers: "Drop Dead!" several alternative ways of dealing with onerous pay-per-view schemes developed by news agencies are considered. He suggests that somehow an "open source" model might be applied to the content created by bloggers. Some articles are archived free of charge at alternative sites such as Common Dreams but this severely limits the amount and type of content available. He also describes a scenario where groups of bloggers might form a "coalition of the willing" and pay access fees to the news organizations. I tend to agree with Liza Sabater who believes references to news content should fall under fair use provisions. In her article fair use = drop dead? she describes her husbands dealings with the Mattel Corporation following his use of Barbie imagery. Her approach is:
"in the case of articles, i say that the only way to bring attention to this issue is to try it two ways: to either start REPRINTING WITH FULL ATTRIBUTION or to BUY THE ARTICLE and then post a link to it (and then think napster). "
I think news content (e.g. a news article) is part of a cultural dialog that must remain within the public domain. Thanks to Andrew Carnegie, we have a tradition in the U.S. of public libraries that attempt to capture our written knowledge and make information accessible to society, without discrimination. At just about any public library, one can read a copy of the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune or any number of national and international news publications. Our culture recognizes the importance of the accessibility of this information and has provided for this via the public library institution. Of course, uber-capitalists will claim that libraries are serving their purpose, and therefore, Internet publications (news sources such as NY Times, etc.) do not need to be freely accessible. I see that as a waste of the promise afforded the Internet. At one time, the public library was the most accessible way of retrieving information, that distinction now applies to digital distribution via the Internet. The Internet should provide access to our cultural dialog free of charge (ignoring the cost of Internet access itself, unfortunately). It is of vital importance to the creation of an intelligent citizenry. I would go so far as to say that it's importance is so great that government should be responsible to maintain access to this information. This could be handled in many ways, including publicly funded digital libraries which store copies of the major news publications, or governmental subsidies to news organizations to defray the cost of permanent archives. The later might be the most efficient of these scenarios, and would allow the news organizations to continue to benefit from the revenues generated by advertising. News organizations have traditionally relied on advertising as their major source of income, and just because content can be controlled digitally does not mean they have the right to lock content behind a pay-per-view wall. Perhaps another solution to this problem would be if today's captains of industry took a clue from Andrew Carnegie and philanthropically contributed to society in a way that truly benefits us all. Maybe Bill Gates should stop self-servingly donating Microsoft software wherever the opportunity presents itself, and could instead fund a free, publicly accessible storehouse of digital knowledge - a national, digital public library. This library would archive all of the published news content of the major news organizations, and allow the general public to use the information for non-profit or fair-use purposes. In the meantime, I think the approach is to use sources in any way that fits one's personal morals, and hope that eventually the system will right itself.