Copyrights and Wrongs

By: Roberta Beach Jacobson

Somehow we have come to believe more is better, that it‘s a good thing if a
search engine
pops up with 27,999 entries on a given subject. Yet it‘s because of this
very "too muchness"
that many journalists have found themselves entangled in the Web.

Writers believe they‘ve sold one-time rights to articles, which then are
left indefinitely on
Websites or in archives - trapped without their permission, often times even
without their
creator's knowledge. In all but a few cases, writers have not been
compensated financially for
this prolonged use of their work.

These days every tiny business, every magazine and newspaper, wants a
Website. Editors
who would probably hand back the coin to the supermarket cashier who gave
them too much
change apparently think nothing of decorating their Webpages with "donated"
articles.

Copyright is copyright, folks, be it bleached pulp or cyberspace. Cyberspace
is just more
complex.

The Internet is like a train out of control, running away with writers
rights. Because the Web
is in its infancy, these working conditions can be improved.

We still have a
chance to patch
things up and head that train in the right direction.

Discovering a freshness
Even some journalists who once turned up their noses at the new medium are
curious enough
to flag down the train, not even sure where it‘s bound. The Internet has
been said to provide
some old-fashioned print journalists the rush of excitement they once felt
when they started
out as cub reporters so many moons ago.

There‘s plenty of uncharted territory to cover and new rules to learn such
as creating shorter
sentences and paragraphs. This can lend a certain freshness to a stale
career.

Web managers do have a problem on their hands. Practically overnight, they
have been
expected to become HTML savvy and produce fully-functioning, competitive
sites with
plenty of toots and whistles.

Often they have little or no staff. They are supposed to intelligently
address an international audience, wow them, and somehome make a profit at
the end.

To disguise the function of journalists by referring to them as "content
providers," "word
architects" or mere "slot fillers" is a disservice. With the new titles, it
‘s easier to imagine
them mindlessly churning out piece after piece to hand over without comment
or concern.
Instead of sitting in first class, "content providers" end up chasing after
the caboose.

Let‘s explore and celebrate this new medium together, but there‘s no passing
the buck. Let‘s
not allow the practice of fair compensation for good journalism to be
thoughtlessly tossed out
the train‘s window as we sit back and enjoy the ride.

We editors and publishers are the ones with the authority to make positive
changes and we certainly have the responsibility to know exactly what‘s
posted on our Websites, under what conditions it got thereFind Article, where it goes
next - and why.

Copywriting
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