Ian Shapira, reporter for the Washington Post, thinks Gawker ripped off his tiresome trend story about a tiresome trendwatcher.
He may be right, but that’s not what the Post is worried about right now.
Sure, Gawker copied key quotes from Shapira’s Speaking to Generation Nexus
Guru Explains Gens X, Y, Boomer To One Another
, which is smeared across three slow-loading pages on the Post’s site. Gawker’s ‘Generational Consultant’ Holds America’s Fakest Job is shorter, funnier, has a better hed, and fits on a single page.
“Generational consultant” Anne Loehr’s “generational cheat sheet”, which should have been a single-page table, takes up another heavily-monetized five pages of the Post’s site. Shapira makes no apologies for that, presumably because he knows the publicity is good for her. After all, if someone gives a generational seminar and the Post doesn’t show up, has it made a sound?

Current law basically allows the Gawkers of the world to appropriate others’ work, repurpose it and sell ads against it with no payment to or legal recourse for the company that paid me while I sat through two hours of a generational seminar.

Maybe Shapira and his editors should consider whether that time might have been better spent on a different story. I hear things are a little tight in the Post newsroom these days.

They want to amend the copyright law so that it restores “unfair competition rights” — which once gave us the power to sue rivals if our stories were being pirated. That change would give news organizations rights that they could enforce in court if “parasitic” free-rider Web sites (the heavy excerpters) refused to bargain with them for a fee or a contract. Marburger said media outlets could seek an order requiring the free-rider to postpone its commercial use or even hand over some advertising revenue linked to the free-riding.

No one objects to copyright protection. OK, almost no one. But the Post already has that. They want something bigger.
What’s on the minds of the traditional media is not plagiarizers and “parasites”. They have Google in their sights. And they need a extension/reification of the “hot news” doctrine that will allow them to have a monopoly on the facts for a period of time greater than zero.
I’m not interested in rewriting copyright and antitrust law to save the occasional baby in all the bathwater the major metros print every day.
How can the Gawker article be considered “unfair competition” when it increased the audience for Shapira’s article on the Post’s site? Because Gawker’s very existence is unfair competition.

The Post just completed its fourth round of buyouts since 2003; and although the company reported on Friday that it had returned to profitability in the second quarter, the newspaper division, which is pretty much us, continues losing money. Standard & Poor’s expects that the company’s gross earnings will drop by 30 percent this year. Gawker Media, on the other hand, reported last week that its revenues in the first two quarters of 2009 were up 45 percent from the first two quarters of last year. …
After all the reporting, it took me about a day to write the 1,500-word piece. How long did it take Gawker to rewrite and republish it, cherry-pick the funniest quotes, sell ads against it and ultimately reap 9,500 (and counting) page views?