Newseum provides a great service to the internet at large, and journalism in particular. We’ve used their Today’s Front Pages feature many times in the past to inform people about the day’s news, comment on what’s happening, and to inspire people to look a little bit deeper at the stories that inspire and inform us. Like all journalism should. Newseum runs one of the best parts of the entire internet — having every front page in the world at your fingertips is something most people couldn’t even imagine even 20 years ago. As a journalist, it’s something I bought into as well, and I’ve been an active participant over the years. And with the current situation (which involves the organization watermarking pages and enforcing copyright), I feel that I can’t just ignore it and let this issue get swept under the rug. Some thoughts and suggestions to deal with this:
- On “best practices” Newseum’s talk of not stealing other people’s content online being a “best practice” is totally missing the point of the Internet. Are they using the same Internet we are? Hint: It’s not “stealing,” it’s sharing. Blocking sharing cuts off the hose. By cutting off the hose, you lose influence and focus. You know what needs our attention more than ever? The printed page. Losing that would be a mortal blow to a medium getting less respect than ever.
- An alternate history To take this in a different direction, Newseum’s stance on this issue ignores a completely different story of the Internet — the growth of open-source content, the expansion of licenses beyond mere copyright, the story of folk heroes like Richard Stallman — all storylines that would not exist if everyone listened to the best practices put forth by the Newseum. Copyright is great and all, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Not on this issue.
- A request for newspapers We have a solution to this mess that we hope that newspapers at large heed: Consider making your front pages available in a Creative Commons format — one that nips this problem in the bud for good. (This license would be a great choice, because it would make sure that nobody, not even Newseum, could change the content.) Freely-available front pages don’t take away from bottom lines. They add to them. Think about that.
» Ultimately, to be clear: Newspapers are taking a bit of a beating as an information source these days. As we switch over to the Web for more and more of our daily lives and our tastes change, projects like the Newseum become more important reminders of where we came from and why these things remain important. We write this because we love what Newseum does, but also because we need MORE things like Frontpages, not fewer.