You can't copyright facts, but is news a category unto itself? Without legal protection for the "ownership" of news, what incentive does a news organization have to invest in producing quality journalism that serves the public good? This book explores the intertwined histories of journalism and copyright law in the United States and Great Britain, revealing how shifts in technology, government policy, and publishing strategy have shaped the media landscape.
Publishers have long sought to treat news as exclusive to protect their investments against copying or "free riding." But over the centuries, arguments about the vital role of newspapers and the need for information to circulate have made it difficult to defend property rights in news. Beginning with the earliest printed news publications and ending with the Internet, Will Slauter traces these countervailing trends, offering a fresh perspective on debates about copyright and efforts to control the flow of news.
About the author
Will Slauter is Associate Professor at Université Paris Diderot and a member of the Institut Universitaire de France.
"This history of the idea and practice of trying to control news by treating it as intangible property is an important and hugely timely work—brilliantly researched and presented with real sophistication."
—Lionel Bently, University of Cambridge
"Who Owns the News? is a meticulous and fascinating history of attempts over four centuries to copyright news, but it is also much more than that. Will Slauter has given us a commercial history of journalism, which demonstrates that news is a public good that always needs to be embedded in a set of favorable arrangements in order to survive. It is a useful corrective to today's bromides about the promise of new forms of market support for news, at a time when its economic base has severely eroded."
—Nicholas Lemann, Columbia Journalism School
"A gripping tale, mixing the high principle of Supreme Court opinions with the low subterfuge of editors concocting fake news to expose pilfering rivals. At a moment of peril for both the news industry and the culture that depends on it, there could be no better demonstration of our need for a historical perspective on the most pressing issue of our time."
—Adrian Johns, University of Chicago
"Slauter spins stories of information-gatherers who bundled [the news], monetized it and tried (by means legal and extralegal) to protect their hard-earned labors. Who Owns the News weaves these strands into a magnificent narrative....Who Owns the News? is an entertaining and well-written reminder of the need to examine the history and first principles of copyright."
—Raymond J. Down, New York Law Journal