PlagiarismToday raised an interesting question today when it asked if blog content licensing was dead.
I have given several presentations on blog law issues now, but I must say that I had never really given thought to the issue of whether or not there was really a market for blog content licensing--beyond, of course, thinking about the fair use debate which emerged as a result of the Associated Press's attempt to license the use of its content. As I indicated in my blog posting on the issue, my concern was not so much the fact that Associated Press wanted to license its content, but the fact that Associated Press wanted to impose licenses on the blogosphere that appeared to be unenforceable under the law in light of the fair use doctrine.
Given the blogosphere's reaction to the Associated Press incident, however, I think that PlagiarismToday's question is very timely. While in theory there may be a market for blog content licensing, the reality may be very different. The reaction to the Associated Press action was relatively uniform in the blogosphere: most bloggers vowed simply not to quote the Associated Press again in their blogs, thereby avoiding having to pay a license fee. Thus, in trying to impose a content licensing regime on the blogosphere, the Associated Press essentially managed to withdraw itself from the blogosphere altogether.
Was this really the result that Associated Press was looking to achieve? In all likelihood, no. I would assume that by now the Associated Press--like most organizations--has at least some fundamental understanding of the value of the Internet by, and understands the value of having other websites link to its content. It seems unlikely that Associated Press would knowingly put its organization in unfavorable business position on the Internet at a time when media outlets increasingly are moving to the Internet.
In looking at the blogosphere's reaction to the Associated Press incident, I think it is safe to say that the blogosphere itself is not going to be a very viable market for commercializing blog content. Having said this, is there another potential market in which blog content could be commericalized?
Well, one possibility comes to mind: the traditional media.
Is it not possible that Associated Press got it all wrong? Isn't it possible that the real market for content licensing actually content that is licensed from the blogosphere to traditional media outlets such as Associated Press, rather than vice versa?
In my opinion, this is the direction that journalism is actually heading. I personally receive one or two calls per week from traditional media outlets regarding content I am blogging about. My understanding is that this is not that unusual, and that other established legal bloggers are having similar experiences. It is not much of a leap to think that this content could be licensed back to traditional media outlets for republication. In fact, there is evidence that this is already happening. I know that I have already been approached by traditional outlets about potentially republishing my content.
So, I would argue that blog content licensing is not really dead, but that the market is really with the traditional media outlets rather than in the blogosphere itself. Traditional media outlets have the advertising revenue that can be utilized in the payment of content licensing fees, and they increasingly are looking for content to be supplied by the blogosphere. Thus, they are the ideal market for commercializing blog content, as opposed individual bloggers themselves.
I would be interested in hearing any thoughts by readers on this issue: what do you think? Is this the direction that journalism is going? Is there really a market for blog content licensing, and if so, is it in the traditional media?