Richard Posner is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. An article published in the Journal of Legal Studies identified Posner as the most cited legal scholar of all time, and the New York Times called him one of the most respected judges in the United States.
In a blog post titled The Future of Newspapers, Posner opines that the best solution to the newspaper industry’s problem may be expanding the scope of copyright law:
Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion.
Now, I’m certainly not one of the country’s most respected legal scholars, but here’s some advice for the newspapers: IF YOU DON’T WANT PEOPLE LINKING TO YOUR CONTENT, DON’T POST IT ON THE WEB. That’ll be $2500 / hour for legal consulting, please.
On the other hand, there may be something useful hidden in this recommendation. Imagine momentarily that the Web had turned into a place where you could only link to pages whose rights holders had given you explicit consent to do so. The best mechanism for giving this kind of consent is, of course, the Creative Commons licenses. This proposal could go a long way toward eliminating links to fully copyrighted content, effectively eliminating it from the network (consider – if a writer posts a story in a forest but literally no one links to it, does it exist? Google and Yahoo can only crawl pages that someone links to) and leaving only a huge interconnected graph of CC-licensed material.
Not to mention the fact that all material is copyrighted, meaning that you wouldn’t be allowed to link to anything without the owner’s previous permission. And if you couldn’t link to it to look at it, how would you know whether you wanted to link to it?
If anything, this blog post shows that Posner understands nothing about the Internet. How embarrassing for him! Perhaps I needed to ask for his permission before linking to and commenting on his post?