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Cry me a river

Listening to KUNR while driving to work this morning, I was sympathetic to a story about a YouTube video entrepreneur whose work is being plagiarized on Facebook.

After all, internet audiences often are built on the content of others. Some of the most-trafficked sites in the world, such as reddit, Facebook and Twitter, rely primarily on copy-paste or links to stuff created elsewhere, and secondarily on commentary provided by users.

Internet_Archive_Googly_EyesYouTube is one of few popular sites that actually pays people who create original works.

I didn’t catch the name of the video-maker interviewed on the Public Radio newscast, but a quick search for ‘Facebook steals YouTube video’ turned up a good number of posts the last couple of years, including this recent one.

To quote its author, Hank Green: “Facebook says it’s now streaming more video than YouTube. To be able to make that claim, all they had to do was cheat, lie, and steal.”

All this is quite familiar to me and anyone else from the past 20 years of the newspaper industry. Our content may not have built the internet, but it made the internet worth reading. And, largely, still does.

We endured all the dinosaur jokes and the chastisements about how we just didn’t get it. Legacy media, they called us, with the same tone some people say classic rock. Old news.

‘We’re driving your traffic!’ they exclaimed. ‘We’re making money for you by sending people to your sites!’

Bullshit. They were stealing our work.

I recall several years ago when a popular site complained they weren’t posting a photo of some spectacular incident in China — I think it was a huge chain-reaction traffic accident in the middle of nowhere — because the Associated Press owned the rights to the photo.

The site mocked AP for its backward-thinking, last-century approach to copyright law.

I scoffed.

First, the site could simply have paid AP to use the photo. Thousands of outlets do that every day.

Second, the reason AP had that photo was no accident. It has reporters, photographers, correspondents, editors, offices and members all over the world.

For almost 170 years, when something newsworthy happened, the Associated Press found a way to cover and distribute the news. It took hard work.

Now, of course, wondrous technology has made it possible for any of us to do a simple Google search to get the news — which, I suspect, still mostly originates with some organization that is a member of AP.

In the radio interview, the YouTube entrepreneur estimated he had lost perhaps $20,000 when a video he created went viral on Facebook instead of his own YouTube channel.

Imagine, if you will, the typical reporter who spends his or her day working a breaking local news story — I’m thinking, for example, the mine spill into the Animas River a couple of weeks ago above Durango, Colo., — that ends up going worldwide.

How many clicks do you think that reporter’s work generated?

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