Times are tough in the newspaper business. Employment at newspapers is down 60 percent since 1990, and now, for the first time, more Americans now work for online publishers and broadcasters, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Newspaper people have been complaining about having to compete with the Internet, which gives away content for free. But newspapers sure haven’t helped themselves by making their product better.
According to Gallup, public confidence in newspapers has fallen for each of the last 10 years.
But let’s be charitable. Newspapers may have a point. After all, how can you expect them to build a better product when facing an entirely new type of competition that is poaching good reporters and scarce advertising dollars?
Maybe they could get back on their feet if the government would just provide them a little protection from competition at this key point in time?
The government of Morocco has come to the defense of its Fourth Estate by making it illegal to share a newspaper in Morocco.
Of course, the government of Morocco had helping coming up with this idea, namely from the Moroccan Federation of Newspaper Publishers, who claim “the habit of ‘leaving newspapers behind in public places’ was costing their industry $150m each year in lost revenue.” Morocco’s communications ministry will also be subsidizing the newspaper companies, and creating a commission to encourage newspaper readership.
The American newspaper industry needs to get its lobbyists on this idea now, or else they may go the way of the candlemaking industry in France, which failed to secure legislative protection against a particularly aggressive foreign competitor.
But perhaps we can prevent the nefarious practice of newspaper-sharing here in America without new legislation? What if American newspapers just printed a disclaimer next to the price on each newspaper stating that the purchaser agrees not to let anyone else read his copy? Then we could enforce copyright protection just as we do with books, music, and movies. This article about intellectual property by Stephan Kinsella is a great place to learn why this is inconsistent with liberty as well.