Killing the Internet in Order to Save Newspapers

This op-ed seems designed to push whole new frontiers in bad policy. The idea is that in order to save newspapers, congress should (a) grant newspapers an anti-trust exemption so they can collude and fix prices and (b) make search engine indexing of whole web pages a violation of copyright laws. Thus equipped to extract monopoly rents from readers and Google alike, the thinking goes, the news business can be saved.

It’s worth noting that even if such legislation were to be implemented, it wouldn’t actually work unless every major news organization agreed to join the cartel. Indeed, it seems likely that this might inadvertently wind up killing the news industry in the United States. Papers would take advantage of the new cartelization situation to restore profitability based on their existing readership base. But younger people would continue to read non-cartelized media—everything from Think Progress and Talking Points Memo and the Huffington Post and the Center for Independent Media to the BBC and NPR. Newspapers would find themselves even more deeply locked into a business model dependent on a literally dying customer base.

Meanwhile, the internet would be a much worse place.

And note that as with a lot of commentary on the subject, the authors of the proposal seem to be missing the fact that fees from readers have never paid for the news. The issue with online has to do with the fact that advertisers don’t want to pay.

At any rate, I sort of hope this idea picks up tons of steam in congress because then maybe Google would give me lots of money to blog endlessly about what a stupid idea this is. I’m rolling with a “patronage” business model, after all, so it’s very helpful to me for people to come up with terrible ideas that are contrary to the interests of large, cash-rich business enterprises.