Clearly They Have Not Learned from Stevens Media

SayUncle is reporting that Knox News had some of their content stolen by an writer. I’m sure Righthaven would be happy to sue the writer and if given half the chance, without warning or attempt at resolution. Clearly Knox news has not adopted the new business model of the failing old media. But Jack McElroy notes:

Apparently, search engine optimization is more important than basic beat reporting, these days. That’s not only sad; it’s scary.

Yes. That is the basic truth.’s business model is really based entirely on bringing traffic to their site, regardless of whether that traffic represents people getting value out of the content, or just arriving on a search term. That’s one of the reasons exercises very little editorial oversight over their content producers — if they did it would actually be a detriment to their business model. Their strategy is to put as much content out there as possible related to specific topics, and then dominate the search rankings for those terms. The quality of the writing, or the value of the content have little bearing on bringing search engine traffic.

Google is going to necessarily have a profound impact on reporting and news gathering, and groups like Stevens Media, and the reporter here, obviously don’t get there’s a benefit, search engine wise, to having one of your stories widely linked, even if the linker quotes a little from it. But the legal implications of the model are interesting. The fair use doctrine uses a four factor test in trying to determine whether a use of copyright works is fair. One of those factors includes “whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.” directly makes money off advertising, of which it shares a portion of with, on a per-page-view basis, with its content producers. This would be a factor that would weight against a fair use ruling in Court.

But itself would not be an attractive target for a shakedown in the manner of Righthaven’s suits, because they presumably have the money to hire lawyers, and would be more interested in protecting their overall business model than they would be in a quick settlement. It would be very interesting to find out, also, whether would be able to claim immunity under the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. I would tend to doubt it, but the line between service and content providers is getting increasingly less clear.

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