Where are our news stories?

You may have wondered where Wildmind’s news stories have gone. By way of background, since around 2002 we’ve been looking out for stories in the media that feature meditation, and posting them in our blog. Mostly we’ve posted extracts with a link to the original source.

Just today, however, we became aware of a dangerous new practice that’s affecting blogs that post news stories. Wired revealed that a company called Righthaven has purchased the rights to the news stories published by two large newspaper groups, and has begin aggressively suing bloggers. Ostensibly this is about protecting the copyright of the newspapers, but it’s clear that Righthaven is in it for the money: they sue, asking for $75,000 per copyright violation, rather than issuing a takedown demand (which is the more usual, reasonable, and civilized approach).

We have no way of checking, without spending many hours of research, which of our stories originated from the hundreds of newspapers represented by Righthaven. And we’ve no way of knowing what amount of text they regard as “fair use.” So we’ve decided that it’s wisest to take down virtually all of our news stories rather than risk being bankrupted.

We still have the posts saved in our database, in case we’re able to clarify the situation. We find it unfortunate, though, that it’s necessary to be defensive even about posting extracts of news stories.

10 Comments. Leave new

  • here is another community service stopped in order that some people can acquire more monetary profit. it’s sad that the network is being transformed into a revenue generator for big businesses instead of a means for people to connect with each other …

    this is the world we have made for ourselves.

  • This is so wrong! Rather than embracing the idea that is information to passed along, RightHaven has chosen to see it as a commodity for profit………. <<>>

    My hope & affirmation is that they will see that they have stifled the flow, & will give up this attitude………. Om……… Shala

  • I agree that it doesn’t make sense to stop websites from publishing short snippets of news stories published elsewhere, with a link to the original page (as Wildmind has always done), so readers can read the whole thing. It’s a valuable service for both the readers of the page posting the snippets, and the owners of the page that funded the original story. I will be sorry if Righthaven curtails this practice.

    However, I do respectfully take issue with the idea (expressed in some comments here) that it is immoral for news organizations to want to make money from entire news articles. In this age of citizen journalism, everyone has begun to think that articles should be produced and distributed for free. But, when it comes to news, you get what you pay for.

    It costs money to craft a well-researched, well-written, comprehensive and factually correct article. Someone has to pay for the phone lines, the tape recorders, the cameras, the computers and the reporters’ time. Reporters often take years of training and draw on years of experience to hone their craft so that they can write good stories. I find it sad that so many people think the resulting work should be free.

    I’ll reveal my bias here: I’m a freelance journalist. And while I love reading news online as much as the next person, I also realize that news you can trust is rarely free. If the originating site doesn’t get the benefit of eyeballs on its page to read the ads there, it can’t pay its journalists, buy its equipment or pay its electricity bills. Then there won’t be any more stories from that outlet. Everyone loses.

    To frame it in Buddhist terms, it is a matter of compassion. Journalists are contributing their hard work in the expectation that they can earn a living–just as a doctor, plumber, teacher or any other worker does. It isn’t compassionate to steal their livelihood from them. It’s important to understand both sides of the fence.

    • I just want to say I have no problem at all with journalists and newspapers making money from their publications. I wish them all well. Righthaven isn’t of course a media company at all, but exists to make money by suing. I don’t think this is a very helpful development. I’ve had many instances of people copying my work on the internet, but a simple DMCA take-down notice can get the copied work removed and the plagiarized page delisted from Google. I’ve no wish to cause people emotional hardship by threatening to sue them. The amounts being asked for by Righthaven — even the reduced rates they eventually settle for rather than the $75,000 opening bid — strike me as being outrageously high compared to any damage caused.

      The newspaper industry is going through a tough time, but this isn’t going to help in the long term. People will start to get the message that you shouldn’t copy entire newspaper articles or perhaps even post “fair use” quotations (who can afford to defend themselves if Righthaven comes knocking asking $75,000 because of a copied paragraph embedded in a thoughtful blog post? Not me. And if you think I’m exaggerating, AP is now demanding payment for any quotation from one of their articles longer than six words). Web traffic to news organizations will decline further. And once revenue from suing dries up, newspapers will still have the problem that people can read their stuff online for free, and use ad-blockers to screen out the advertisements that are meant to pay for the news-gathering process.

      I sincerely hope newspapers survive, but I don’t think they’re helping themselves in this instance.

  • I think you are right that newspapers are shooting themselves in the foot with things like Righthaven. Suing for outrageous amounts rarely solves problems. It’s analogous to the music industry: they dragged their heels on the whole MP3 issue, suing people for sharing music and generally refusing to help people do what they clearly wanted to do. Then Apple came along with a solution that suited most people: pay a _reasonable_ fee of 99 cents or $1.29 or whatever per song, and the artists get a fee for their work. Everybody wins.

    I completely agree with you that suing people for using a few words or paragraphs from a story is completely ridiculous and will only hurt newspapers in the end. I know that Wildmind always used stories fairly, and I’m sorry not to see the news feed anymore.

    I think I was just responding to what I read (probably wrongly) as the implication in some of the comments that all news should be free and that news organizations are being greedy by charging for news. I think I misread the comments–my apologies!

    • In full disclosure, until recently we did only ever publish snippets of news stories (with a link), but increasingly I found that older links lead to dead ends, because articles had been moved or deleted. I then started copying the entire article but only publishing the snippet and link, so that I could always reconstitute a story for the benefit of people who wanted to research the percolation of meditation into western culture, as reflected in the media. But then I got lazy and started posting entire stories if they were from a major publication. There was a degree of rationalization involved in this (I’m perhaps not increasing the readership of the NYT by stealing one of their stories, but I’m also not reducing it either). But I knew this was wrong. But with the Righthaven thing, I’m honestly afraid even to publish a snippet. They’re after money, and they are not reasonable people, in my view. I think that if they see an opportunity to sue over a paragraph, they’ll do it, since they know that virtually no one has the resources to stand up to them in court.

      I may well return to posting stories (I’d certainly like to), but simply displaying a short paraphrase and a link. I’m not sure I’ll ever have the time to go back through our backlog of stories and convert them to that format, however!

  • As a writer, I’ve always been sensitive to copyright law. I don’t know of a newspaper or a magazine that will not grant a permalink to their stories, if asked. This will keep the link you have from going 404 on you. Additionally, many will grant permission for an entire reprint on your site as long as you 1.) ask first and 2.) credit them. But you must get this in writing. An email or a fax will suffice. There are a few (the big guys, usually, who pay a lot of money to writers, photographers, etc. to produce articles) who want a royalty payment of some sort.

    You can, also, write your own articles. No one can copyright a fact or an idea. They can only copyright creative expression…the way they told the story. And there are a lot of freelancers who will work a lot cheaper than you might think they will, if you need content.

    I, personally, would like to see more control of copyright. A lot of people ignore it because they know they will first get a cease and desist. This has been the process, but when everyone knows this, no one respects it. It has no teeth. No bite.

    When I research a subject, I want to find original sources talking about that subject. I want to see different views and opinions. I don’t want to go to ten or more sites with the exact word-for-word content, yet this is what I have been finding, for the past few years. It seems that people copy and paste the content of entire articles to their sites and blogs as soon as it is published. This is an activity that I would like to see curtailed.

  • In general I agree with you, Kerry, except that some Asian papers in particular have an odd habit of randomly making stories disappear, and even in some US publications stories have vanished and can’t even be found by using their search functions.

    Also, while newspapers themselves may on the whole be quite reasonable, it’s not newspapers who are doing the suing now, but companies that have been set up to make money by threatening blogs with enormous damages.

    But yes, I believe people have a right to protect the investment they make in their creative endeavors (I’m a writer myself).

  • Wired ran another story regarding Righthaven today about how registering as a take-down agent and gaining legal “safe harbor” status under the DMCA may help avoid this kind of thing. The scenarios they describe are somewhat different than what the news posts here have been, but it seems like it probably still applies to some extent. It may be worth a look if you haven’t read it yet – a one page form and $105 fee seems like a bargain if it takes the site off the radar of Righthaven and similar groups.


  • Thanks for the tip, Joe. It seems that the safe harbor only covers copyright material found in reader comments, rather than blog posts themselves, and we review all comments anyway.

    I mus say it’s rather disturbing that Righthaven will sue over a four paragraph extract of a 34 paragraph story!


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