Piracy_newsThe Future of the News Industry at Stake

Caroline Little, President & CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, wrote an thoughtful op-ed  this week asking that Congress consider the economic needs of newspapers in any discussions about copyright reform.  In sharing her editorial the Copyright Alliance website noted its significance:

The investment that the newspaper industry makes in journalism, made possible by copyright protection and licensing agreements, contributes significantly to having a vibrant democracy where the public can make informed decisions.

Copyright detractors constantly portray copyright and copyright owners as enemies of the public interest and as obstacles to the public’s access to information. Although news aggregators claim to enhance public access to information, their contribution to the production of top quality content is virtually null. Caroline Little’s words are a refreshing reminder that the interests of content creators and the public are intertwined rather than opposed.

Ms. Little’s editorial emphasizes that in the future, in order to maintain a robust news industry, we must be vigilant in protecting it.

…journalism plays a vital role in local communities and in our nation’s democracy. But it also costs money: Newspapers continue to invest more than $5 billion a year in journalism, far more than any other medium in the United States. Newspapers deliver news and information when and where readers want it, in print, digital and mobile platforms.

To do that, we must have fair copyright laws to enable newspapers to receive fair compensation in support of this journalism.

This year, the House Judiciary Committee, the Commerce Department, the Copyright Office and others are looking at potential changes to the Copyright Act. The newspaper industry applauds these efforts to ensure that copyright law is best suited for the digital age. We hope that any changes to the Copyright Act will continue to ensure that content creators — including those who invest in journalism — receive fair compensation.

Ms. Little’s editorial focuses on the threat posted by for-profit aggregator sites that, “exist solely to aggregate content from the websites of original publishers for the sole purpose of selling this content to business users at a considerable profit.” Clearly the news business is not exempt from the type of content theft/monetization schemes that have long afflicted music, and more recently movies.  As with the music and film industry, this piracy undermines legitimate journalism’s ability to publish and thrive online.  As Ms. Little notes:

Newspapers’ concern in this area is not the personal use of newspaper-generated content but rather its use by businesses that benefit financially through the unlicensed monetization of that content. By taking newspaper content without paying for it, these companies undercut the fundamental economic model that supports journalism that is so important to our communities.

Ironically, the same day I read Ms. Little’s editorial, I came across a clear example of the piracy publishing scourge that she’s writing about.  I happened to be searching for news on the season 2 premiere of Netflix’s hit show, “Orange is the New Black,” scheduled for next month.  I clicked on a link and was taken to a story posted on freenewspos.com , Orange Is the New Black’ Season Two Is More Bingeworthy Than the First – The Daily Beast.”

piracy-publisherAt first glance, I thought it legit.  After all, the news website The Daily Beast was mentioned in the headline.  I read the story and clicked on the Facebook link to post it on my Vox Indie Facebook page. Only then did I realize it was a pirated site for print when the post promoted the freenewspos.com rather than the article.  I did a double-take and discovered that the operators of freenewspos.com had copied the entire Daily Beast story and posted it, word for word, to their site.  As is typical in piracy for profit schemes, advertising appears adjacent to the piece.  The site operators earn income by stealing the work of journalist  Kevin Fallon from the Daily Beast.

Adding insult to injury, it’s a Google-sponsored AdSense ad that adorns this pirate page so Google’s making money at the expense of The Daily Beast too.  Of course Google has long been in the business of enabling and profiting off pirated content, and now I can add online journalism to the list of industries that suffer from Google’s ad network profiteering.  These screen captures showing the original Daily Beast story and its pirated counterpart.



Also note the disclaimer at the bottom of the pirated version, “Disclaimer statement: The point of this article or rights belongs to the authors and publishers. We take no responsibility for the content of this article and legitimacy.”  The domain is hidden behind a company called Moniker Privacy Services.

When you click the “who we are link” a page pops up in Italian.  Drilling down into a translation of the “Terms of Service” one finds this:

…you want to publish or print into your website, blog, forum, RSS feed or in any other publication, an article taken from our website, you must follow these rules: Respect the author’s copyright by publishing the entire article without making any changes. [emphasis added]  Include all the information present in the author’s box at end of article.Do not change both the title and the content of the article. Leave all links in the article with their syntax. Insert at end of article republished claims on our website with active link: Article taken from: freenewspos.com not republish our article in sites that contain illegal or mp3 files, information for hackers, bad language, violent content glorifying racism or contain pornography, child abuse or exploitation of children, adults or animals, or any other activity deemed illegal or contrary to applicable Italian laws. Do not republish our article via unsolicited email, spamming, or pop up ads. Never sell any article taken from freenewspos.com fees not ask to read an article taken from our website.

Seems that it’s OK to pirate another’s content as long as you link to the original?  Not exactly how copyright law is supposed to work, but hey, in our online environment it seems as though making up things as one goes along is fine and dandy.  As Ms. Little points out, The most convenient way to request permission to copy and distribute material is by contacting the publisher of the content. In addition, clearinghouses exist that provide an easy way for business users of content to obtain redistribution rights.”  This site never mentions asking the author for permission.

There’s also a somewhat Freudian typo in the site’s FAQ section as well an ironic (English) acronym in use.  I believe it should read, “How do I use POS?” but instead it reads:

How do I sue POS?

The application operates in a complete automatic fashion. A reader is able to obtain subscription and read information without the need to log in. If you provide your E-mail, you will be able to access the POS management application,
where all notifications from POS and news can be viewed in full (POS does not send you spam or advertisements). Other advanced functions will also be available.

POS will not place any restrictions on how you use the application.However, your use and development of the application must not infringe the reputation of POS,nor cause any damage to any of its facilities. You must ensure third party rights are protected.instead of POS, as POS does not hold any copyrights of services provided by the aforementioned third party.

POS does not place any restriction on the contents or the way your articles are published,whether you are a reader or a writer. But, POS will not be held liable for any third party claims against the accuracy or the legality of any contents published.
You are not allowed to publish or paste any material involving defamation, racism, pornography, violence and any contents forbidden by laws of your country or those that POS considers or has been reported to be inappropriate. POS has the right to delete the above mentioned material or contents without notification to its publisher.

I dare say POS is a POS, but I digress.   The fact is that respecting copyright ultimately means respecting creators’ rights to determine how their works are used.  Companies like Google, and this (POS) pirate publishing site, practice their own alternative view of copyright–take what’s not yours and monetize it (illegally) until someone finds out.

When I checked out the site’s Twitter feed is was full of Tweets advertising “free” movies online.  Not surprisingly it’s more scam than substance, as each Tweet linked to a freenewspos.com post with a bunch of keywords or summary for a popular movie title–simply more SEO churn for ad dollars.  One Tweet listed links to a post that, in turn, linked to a YouTube page which, in turn, linked to another off-site ad forwarded from a Google-hosted Blogger, Blogspot.com site.  Google seems to seems to be entwined in this site’s nefarious activities every which way.

POS Twitter.001

When I attempted to actually login and create a user account in order to see how the site worked, the page came up blank on multiple browsers. Maybe it works for users in Italy?  Regardless, it seems pretty clear that freenewspos.com is a site built on a business model dependent on attracting traffic and ad revenue by promoting content that is stolen and, often times, make believe.  Perhaps not much can be done to prevent this site from operating, but surely Google could do better in choosing business partners?