The Huffington Post’s news aggregation business drives enormous traffic to the third-party sites its editors link to (including, occasionally, this one). The Huffington Post also often excerpts liberally from third-party sites’ stories and uses this content to drive significant traffic to itself.
As the web journalism business model evolves, aggregation will become more important. The sense of what constitutes “fair use” here is–and should be–still evolving.
The first reaction of many content creators is to feel that any large content excerpt taken by another site has been “stolen.” If the excerpt drives significant traffic back to the creator’s site, however, the creators often are–and should be–grateful for the link (we certainly are). If the aggregator takes the entire story without any credit, gratitude, permission, linking, or traffic in return, however, content creators justifiably feel ripped off.
We think there’s a happy medium here, one that involves a more liberal definition of “fair use” than in traditional media. Specifically, if a content aggregator gives traffic, visibility, and credit in return for a liberal excerpt, we think content creators should not insist that excerpts be limited to a certain number of words or paragraphs. If the aggregator just rips them off, however, they have every right to be incensed.
We think “fair use” online, in other words, will eventually come to mean exactly that: “fair.” Sites should aggregate and link to others’ content the way they want other sites to aggregate and link to their own.
Wired: Whet Moser, an editor at alternative weekly Chicago Reader wants to know why The Huffington Post’s newly formed Chicago-focused venture is stealing their copyrighted concert reviews and reprinting them in whole in order to get search engine traffic. And he found other examples taken wholesale from The Onion and Time Out Chicago.
You want to do a post that says, “According to Jessica Hopper, Bon Iver rules, check ’em out, go here for the info,” fine. But taking an entire concert preview is bush league. Doing it as a practice is just beneath contempt. If the future of journalism–which everyone keeps telling me The Huffington Post represents — is a bunch of search-engine optimization scams, we have bigger problems than Sam Zell’s bad investment strategies.
But The Huffington Post co-founder Jonah Peretti says the contretemps are overblown — that the complete re-printing was a mistaken editorial call and that The Huffington Post’s intention in aggregating other publications’ content is to send traffic their way.