Jack Shafer, Slate's excellent media commentator, has seen through the charging-for-content smokescreen erected by Rupert Murdoch in a piece headlined Read between the lies.It points to the truth behind the phoney war of words launched by "Murdoch the talker" who attacks Google, Microsoft, Ask.com and the BBC for (allegedly) stealing his News Corporation newspaper content and then claims "he's going to put a stop to it with fair-use lawsuits and pay walls to keep the poachers out."
But Shafer contends that, despite the threats, Murdoch must be aware that he would not win a fair-use action otherwise he would have sued already. He writes:
"I'll bet that Murdoch's lawyers have advised him against filing a fair-use lawsuit against the search engines because it could backfire, expanding fair-use rights rather than limiting them.
"Evidence of his low confidence in the wisdom of erecting universal pay walls resides in the fact that he hasn't built them, even though he's been threatening to do so for months.
"And for evidence that he doesn't really hate Google, look to his refusal to add to his sites the robots.txt file that prevents Google from adding them to its search database.
"Murdoch is simply jawboning. Three months ago he promised that News Corp would start charging for its newspapers by June 2010. Now he doubts that the company will hit that mark. In typical Murdochian fashion, he's sowing confusion and harvesting bewilderment."
I pointed out last month that Murdoch is really engaged in a paid-content propaganda campaign. Shafer evidently agrees, arguing that Murdoch is shouting about paywalls to signal to his competitors "his desperate desire for them to follow."But there is a flaw to erecting a floor-to-ceiling paywall even at the Wall Street Journal - which already charges for access while allowing non-paying visitors to view some content - because it would block Google and thereby lose the paper's website 25% of its traffic...read more