If you’re one of those “The Internet and Information Should Be Free” people, you probably don’t much care for the Wall Street Journal. The House that Rupert Murdoch Re-Built is one of the few places on the Internet where content has been pay-only since day one and has managed to thrive that way.

I admire Mr. Murdoch’s resolve, and his ability to make money where most others have failed, even if I believe he’s way off the mark in the way he goes about things.

But I more admire the management of The New York Times, who have signaled that when they start charging for access to their content sometime next year that they’ll not be roping off articles from their newspaper against bloggers and other outside links.

Personally, I’m relieved. There are quite a few links on the Answer Guy Central web site that point to articles from the New York Times, and I was worried that we’d have to either live with a lot of bad information here or go back and re-do lots of our content. Neither was looking like fun, and knowing that our existing content will be safe is a load off my mind.

And I’m happy to see that in Mr. Murdoch’s world the idea that “news is news” has trumped competitive silliness; the link I gave you above explaining the decision that The Times has made is to a story from the Wall Street Journal . . . or at least a blog by one of its reporters.

But the questions about information being “free” and what that means in the Internet era remain unanswered. Information IS free; what isn’t free is the way information gets arranged. So for example, when you hear that disclaimer about “unauthorized use of the pictures, descriptions and accounts of this game without the express written consent of . . .” on just about any broadcast sporting event, you’re perfectly safe describing what you saw. What’s protected is the actual broadcast, not the events being broadcast.

The only possible justification for wanting to lock down your information-based web site comes from a belief that what you provide is so unique that it deserves to be paid for. The New York Times is being very smart; their stories aren’t unique and so linking to them should be allowed. What’s unique—if anything—is the arrangement as the New York Times.

Sometimes business change is knowing what not to change. Good job, New York Times.

Share This