Jack Stenner has made a valuable contribution to the debate over corporate control of news and digital information in fair use and the news. His is a response to my original post, Media to Bloggers: “Drop Dead!”
Here are some of his more salient ideas:
I think news content is part of a cultural dialog that must remain within the public domain. Thanks to Andrew Carnegie, we have a tradition…of public libraries that capture 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 news publications. Our culture recognizes the importance of the accessibility of this information and has provided for this via the public library institution…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. 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…
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 contributed to society in a way that benefits us all. Maybe Bill Gates should stop self-servingly donating Microsoft software wherever the opportunity presents itself, and instead fund a free, publicly accessible storehouse of digital knowledge – a national, digital public library. 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.
I agree with Jack that many bloggers intend their blogs for the public good and that blogs are performing a public service similar to that of a public library. It’s an apt and intriguing comparison. Of course, the difference is that a blog is a personal enterprise that relies on access to online digital information like news sources. There are as many reasons and purposes for blogs as there are bloggers. Libraries, on the other hand are public institutions run by government employees trained to perform this public service in a way that benefits the most citizens. Bloggers may be like libraries or librarians in some ways, but they are also different in the deeply personal & individual nature of what they do. Some bloggers don’t give a hoot for the public good, nor should they have to. It’s their right to make their blog into their own personal expression.
I don’t mean to undermine the idea that bloggers perform a public service that should be recognized and credited by the media. That is a primary tenet of my origianl post and why I think that news sources and media content should be freely accessible to bloggers.
It would be a great idea for a progressive well-heeled technophile to endorse and endow the project to make digital information as widely available as the books in our public libraries. Let’s throw down the challenge here. Let’s also inform members of Congress who sit on committees overseeing the web of the needs and concerns of bloggers in regard to digital information. Also, let’s inform TP that we’d like to see them negotiate a similar deal to the one Radio has granting access for their members to the New York Times and other periodicals. Let’s also search out and use those alternative online media sources whose goal is to make the news open and free to us all.
Mena Trott told me in a Help ticket that she’s quite interested in the Radio Userland news aggregator arrangement with media outlets and plans to look into it. Go, Mena!