From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age? #544505-00052

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From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?
This is in response to the FTC Commission Staff Discussion Draft "POTENTIAL POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS TO SUPPORT THE REINVENTION OF JOURNALISM" which invites public comments herein submitted to that document. The choices put forth boil down to taking something away from the public, or subsidizing the 'free press'. Essentially propping up failing business models affected by the Internet reducing the cost of distribution of content to near zero. Either artificial scarcity by removing fair use rights held today allowing state law to affect Federal copyright law by protecting rights to facts (ideas), or by subsidizing or licensing news content providers. The choice either abridging the freedom of speech or freedom of the press by favorable taxation. Both impacting First Amendment rights. Thomas Jefferson wrote in his letter to Issac McPherson[1]: "If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property." The First Amendment's freedom of speech clause upholds the right to spread ideas, and copyright law today (supposedly) does not impact that right. Thomas Jefferson also addressed Freedom of the Press[2]: "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it." --Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786. And: "The materials now bearing on the public mind will infallibly restore it to its republican soundness... if the knowledge of facts can only be disseminated among the people." --Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1799. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are inexorably intertwined and we have part of the executive branch willing to tinker with either or both willy nilly. The alternative "The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right;..." (Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington 1787), allowing the people to find the way to express their opinion on the Internet without institutionalizing gatekeepers not needed in the age of zero cost distribution of ideas and their expression, appears more appealing than impacting First Amendment rights. -- [1] [2]