Steve Herrick

An indiano blog

Grupo de Cooperativas de las Indias

A news commons

If we stop treating news as “intellectual property” that has to be protected and start treating it as a commons that protects us, journalism can regain the respect it deserves.


As many people have discussed at length, the traditional news model is breaking down. More and more people get their news online, and particularly from Facebook. This has led to the contamination of the information we need with fake news. People are less concerned with sources than they once were, because the sources all kind of run together in our Facebook feeds. That makes it easy to confuse clickbait articles with solid news.

A consumer co-op for copylefted news

newspaper-246492_1280As an alternative, Nathan Schneider proposes a consumer co-op for news. I think this is a good idea, because the best way to get accurate news is a broad funding base. That way, no single source has too much sway. And people are still willing to pay for news, even though we’re increasingly accustomed to getting something for nothing online.

But here’s a twist. What if the news had a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license, or even a CC0 (public domain) license? This would create a news commons, a subset of the knowledge commons.

Seems counterintuitive to allow someone else to make money off your hard work, doesn’t it? Well, consider a couple of points.

First, the content is available to all subscribers. The only way to make a profit off it would be by adding significant value (further analysis, a print/audio version, translation into another language, etc.), and even then, they would have to price it fairly low, because if they don’t, someone else will. To put that another way, they wouldn’t be paid for your work, they’d be paid for their own work.

Second, attribution is a requirement under BY, and still a strong expectation under CC0. They can’t reuse your content without marketing you and improving your reputation. And policing that is the easy part: with millions of co-op owners out there, anyone who violates the license will be spotted immediately. The Internet is good about that kind of thing.

Third, you’ll be paid the agreed amount for your work whether your content is reused or not. And if payment is based on pageviews, reuse could actually be to your benefit, because it will drive traffic back to your original article.

Fourth, and most importantly, I hypothesize that allowing for commercial reuse of news will have a positive impact on the quality and accuracy of the news. Co-op owners likely won’t put up with ads on sites they are paying for, so site operators are responsible exclusively to readers, on the basis of the content itself. Knowing that others have the option to improve on it will be an incentive to make the content hard to improve on. Anyone who wants to try will face the challenge of bringing the quality up further still, because no one would pay for anything else.

News as commons

Could someone code a site that would simply “scrape” the co-op’s site and reprint it for cheap or free? Yes. That would be easy from a technical standpoint (and already happens a lot), and permissible under the CC license. The disincentive to do so lies in the fact that the loser is not some behemoth corporation and its faceless stockholders, but millions of ordinary people who pay good money to support professional journalists.

If we stop treating news as “intellectual property” that has to be protected and start treating it as a commons that protects us, journalism can regain the respect it deserves.

«A news commons» recibió 1 desde que se publicó el December 1, 2016 . Si te ha gustado este post quizá te gusten otros posts escritos por Steve Herrick.

Pingbacks recibidos desde otros blogs

  1. […] ¿Y si tratamos a las noticias no como propiedad sino como a un comunal? En principio sería lo coherente con el discurso que hacen las empresas mediáticas sobre el significado social de los periódicos pero… todos sabemos que nunca van a hacerlo ¿verdad? […]

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