THE HAMBURG DECLARATION: ANOTHER 'BIG BROTHER' TO THE INTERNET
John 'J' Trinckes
July 26, 2009
It appears that everyone is feeling the effects of the economy even news publishers. With the decrease of advertising dollars, the news industry needs to find ways to survive. The way in which these publishers feel they need to survive is by blaming the Internet for their troubles. A total of 166 European publishers as members of the European Publishers Council (EPC) have recently signed the “Hamburg Declaration to Protect Intellectual Property Rights” in an attempt to enforce legislation that would somehow require readers to ‘pay’ for their news.
The Hamburg Declaration begins by saying: “The Internet offers immense opportunities to professional journalism – but only if the basis for profitability remains secure throughout the digital channels of distribution. This is currently not the case.” My interpretation of this is that to be a professional journalist you have to be a profit maker. Although I guess this would make sense, literarily, the declaration goes on to say that using works of others [authors, publishers, and broadcasters] without paying for it “threatens the production of high-quality content and the existence of independent journalism.” I don’t know about you, but I love reading the articles from NewsWithViews.com and believe they are of very ‘high-quality content’ and from multiple ‘independent’ journalists. There is no profit motive for these writers; they love to write and to get information out in the public domain. Isn’t this what ‘true’ journalism is all about? Get the truth out?
The declaration continues with “universal access to websites does not necessarily mean access at no cost. We disagree with those who maintain that freedom of information is only established when everything is available at no cost.” I don’t know about you, but I do pay a substantial monthly fee to have access to the Internet and as such, I expect to visit any website I want. Are there sites out there that charge a membership fee to join? Absolutely, but I usually don’t bother since there is another site out there that may offer the same information that I’m looking for, but for ‘free’ or with minimal advertising. And as far as freedom of information is concerned, more times than not, the information that comes to us free of charge are often times better than the information that we may pay for. Besides, those individuals that have the money can influence what is said or how something is presented to other individuals. How many times or examples can I site on how our news media cover (or doesn’t cover) a certain story because of the advertising dollars that come in to the news station. We couldn’t possibly want to run a story that is negative against one of our sponsors just to get the ‘facts’ out about that particular story.
“Universal access to our services should be available, but going forward we no longer wish to be forced to give away property without having granted permission.” My response to this is who is forcing you to do anything. If you put a news story out and other individuals find it interesting enough to ‘share’ that information, why wouldn’t you, as a professional journalist, want that information to get out. Isn’t that why you put it out there in the first place? And if that is not the case, then don’t write about it. No one is ‘forcing’ you to write.
The declaration further pleads to governments in an attempt to regulate or ‘protect’ the intellectual property rights of authors, publishers, and broadcasters on the Internet. “There should be no parts of the Internet where laws do not apply.” First off, the Internet was developed and sponsored by the tax paying individuals of the United States, not Europeans. Yes, they may be benefiting from our creation, but in no way should they assume to have control of the Internet or the right to dictate how it should be used. No country should assume such arrogance since the Internet is bigger than any one country. Are there certain regulations already in place on the Internet? Absolutely; however, it is still one of the last realms of ‘real freedom’ by which individuals can share and express their ideas with the rest of the world.
The declaration ends by saying: “ultimately, the fundamental principle that no democracy can thrive without independent journalism must also apply to the World Wide Web.” Aren’t we being a little hypocritical here? We want to have independent journalism, but at a price. As I mentioned earlier, how can someone really be independent if what they say is going to hurt the sponsor that provides them their livelihood. It is like the old saying, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” right? You can never have real independent journalism if it is attached to monetary strings. I hate to further disagree, but democracy will thrive when information is ‘freely’ distributed to everyone that wants to read it.
Of course, I’m not saying that the information should be ‘stolen’ or copyrights violated, but we already have laws to protect against this. (Hmm, I have a thought. Maybe these publishers need to concentrate more on what they are 'selling' and give their customers ‘really’ what they want.) Why don’t these ‘professional journalists’ use their collective ‘artistic’ juices and come up with some new, innovative ways to make a profit from the Internet instead of crying to the government to regulate it more.
Subscribe to the NewsWithViews Daily News Alerts!
"This is just one of those reasons why I hate stupid people."
© 2009 John 'J' Trinckes - All Rights Reserve