Making Knowledge Work

November 14, 2009

From screen scraping to slander

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — virginiahenry @ 3:15 pm

The SLA hosted a debate last week on ‘free vs fee – the future of news’ with Jeremy Lawson from Dow Jones,  Andrew Hughes of the Newspaper Licensing Agency, Laurence C Rafsky, CEO of Acquire Media and media lawyer Laurence Kaye.

Donald Roll, MD (Europe) of Alacra, moderator for the evening, started by  telling us of a recent survey showing US newspaper sales dropped by more than 10% in six months. In the UK the Evening Standard was the latest paper to adopt the free model, and there was a vast range of no-charge news available online.  So, he asked, should we expect a free ride for news content?  It wasn’t hard to guess what the answers might be from the panel…

Andrew Hughes explained that NLA is owned by the big 8 newspapers and represents most of the rest.  From 1st January 2010, he said, they’d be enforcing licences for B2B reuse of content, and he directed us to his organisation’s website so we could get licensed.

Jeremy Lawson told us his organisation has interests on both sides of the issue – Dow Jones is a publisher, and Factiva an aggregator.  But he had no doubts on this issue: to him “free is a four-letter word”.  Quality was worth paying for, and all the Wall Street Journal subscribers proved that

Laurence Rafsky cheerfully littered his speech with that four-letter word.  There were many types of free, he said, such as professionally-written and free to users but paid for by others, free give-aways, free to some but not to others…..  Acquire aggregates both paid-for and free material.  Added value was worth paying for, and that’s what his business provided.

Laurence Kaye’s view was that change was being driven by consumers, but copyright change takes time. Not least because the media’s global but copyright is local.   Professional journalism still has a place, and existing laws provide a framework for paid, free and hybrid content models. The UK has something like 28 legal exceptions for uses such as for private study or research. In the US they have a general exception argument of ‘Fair Use’.  For businesses the issue is the commercial effect of reuse – demonstrated by Ryanair’s recent active pursuit of screen-scraping “pirates”,  and the 2007 judgement for the Copiepresse newspaper group against Google.

During the Q&A session the panel saw a future in which highly customised offerings, such as ‘personalised’ news (eg stories relating to Liverpool FC for diehard fans), would emerge.  Reminded me a little of debates about narrowcasting vs broadcasting that occupied traditional media journalists toward the end of the last century…  Kindle was seen as something that would make charging for content easier, in a world where people expected stuff for free.  Laurence Kaye said it was difficult for users to know when free reuse was OK and when it wasn’t – he was encouraged by the government’s recognition that clarification was needed in its newly-published paper on copyright.   Jeremy Lawson and Andrew Hughes said it was up to publishers to make B2B and B2C charging work.   And Laurence Rafsky gleefully predicted that by 2030 there would be no printed newspapers.

Copyright came up again this week – during an excellent, lightening, summary of Information Law by Professor Charles Oppenheim.  OneIS organised the event, and they’ve thoughtfully provided Prof Oppenheim’s slides on their site.  It was a down-to-earth review of the practical implications of the Data Protection Act, the pitfalls of cloud computing (America’s Patriot Act can override any privacy you might think you’re entitled to), contract law, the eCommerce Directive, defamation and good old copyright.

The Professor’s anecdotes related the law to real life and made the issues he touched on accessible.  There was no slander being slung around (the notion that convicted criminals’ reputations are already pretty low inevitably prompted some entertaining comments on Jeffrey Archer’s character and talents, but they were honestly-held opinions!), but the Prof was serious when he advised everyone to protect their reputation online by regularly Googling themselves.

Aside from the pleasant wine and talk at the end of the evening, one of the best features of the event was to encounter a speaker who talked to, rather than at, their audience.


  1. Hi, I do think this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may return once again
    since I saved as a favorite it. Money and freedom
    is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

    Comment by nose job — February 6, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

  2. Thank you! Hope I’ll have something interesting to say next time you drop by 🙂

    Comment by virginiahenry — February 6, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: