The First Amendment

One of our great legal minds lives right here in Chicago. I have read, listened to and appreciated Judge Richard Posner for a while now. But every so often, even the brightest of us can get a brain fart. Such was the case with this blog post by Judge Posner.

Judge Posner has advocated the outlawing of linking to and summarizing of newspaper articles in order to save the newspaper industry.  But the whole purpose of the internet was to bring the world’s information to people in a usable fashion.  Linking is key to that.  I couldn’t even write this blog post with the information needed to provide the reader with context without linking.  Rather than the newspapers figuring out how best to react to the new world of media, they are looking to find ways to make it illegal to compete with them.

The state of the traditional media in our world is deteriorating quickly.  Publishing companies are in bankruptcy.  Newspapers have stopped printing in Minneapolis, Seattle, Baltimore, Albuquerque and Cincinnati. The newspaper people are doing everything in their power to become more relevant to the masses, as are television news, cable and radio.  But it is too late.

Too many people are getting their news from the internet.  So, that is the problem.  The difference is that the internet experience to getting news is two way and customized.  There can be discussions (ok, a lot of flamewars too) on stories.  Citizen journalists can add to the story by providing photographs or video. Through the use of Twitter and email, stories are told in a much more immediate fashion. Stories get traction because people link to them.  That is the way of the internet.  Links are king.

Following up on Judge Posner’s blog post, Connie Schultz of the Cleveland Plain Dealer talks about changing US Copyright Law to allow newspapers to own their content for 24 hours, during which time no one else could link to the story.  She has a First Amendment attorney to back her up.  If this isn’t a violation of the First Amendment, I am not sure what is.

Jeff Jarvis writes a blog post about it today. Check out the comments to see the variety of positions taken and how our view of the issue is enhanced, not by the self-serving traditional media company, but by the interaction with two way dialogue.

Finally, Andy Sernovitz reminded me of the Charles Darwin quote that is applicable here:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. – Charles Darwin

Please, please, please don’t mess with my First Amendment rights.

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