I wasn’t sure if it would be published, truth be told, but the article I wrote on the NNI copyright scandal is now available on page 24 of this week’s Gaelscéal (but in a format that is entirely immune to Google translate, unfortunately).
Although Galescéal doesn’t have anything like the power or audience of The Irish Times or Irish Independent, it is nonetheless a national newspaper. It is not, however, a member of the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI), who recently submitted to Government the opinion that links should be subject to copyright protection. Although it shouldn’t come as a surprise, it should be deeply disturbing to just about everyone to know that none of the members of the NNI made any mention of this submission to Government until the story was broken online. As far as I’m aware, mine is the first opinion piece published in a national paper which was anything close to sufficiently critical of this position (although I was behind every major tech news site, so I’m not trying to claim an exclusive here or anything).
Although I didn’t pull any punches, I don’t think it’s within my skill as a writer to convey the absurdity of the NNI’s position. In a nutshell, they want control over who links to their content. That’s not to say that they want control over people scraping content from their page – although they want that too – but rather that they want to be able to extract payment from anyone who publishes a link to the site of any newspaper which is a member of the NNI.
The Irish Times, to their credit, have been quite clear that they support people’s rights to publish links on Twitter and Facebook, but really that doesn’t go far enough. Rather they should be jumping up and down on the rooftops, screaming “THIS IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS!”, because nothing less than that will persuade me that they actually understand what’s going on here.
What these companies are doing is trying to extract payment for the equivalent of “yes, that pub’s down their on the left – big yellow sign, can’t miss it”. Merely telling people about their site is enough, apparently, for them to consider you to have infringed their copyright.
There’s no doubt about the absurdity of this position. The only doubt is about whether we can trust that it won’t become law.