Back in 2002, when I was on an MBA exchange program at Wharton, I slipped into the Real Estate Entrepreneurhship class of Peter Linneman. That class was definitively my best class there: pragmatic, down to earth, rigorous. And the speakers where great.
I remember that in session 3, Peter brought in our first speaker of the season: billionnaire Sam Zell. He was wearing jeans, a tux white shirt, and with his hands in his pocket said something like "I'm the first real-estate billionnaire in the USA, and I'm turning 60-something on Saturday. Let me tell you how I did it.".
He went on to discuss how he started selling Playboy magazine as a very young teenager, buying it for a buck in downtown Chicago, and reselling them for a few bucks more in his suburban neighborhood. How he got into real estate, how he bought his first property, how he got his first bank loan. An inspiring man, true to very simple values:
* on the adult magazine trade: "that is what entrepreneurship is all about: when you see an opportunity, use it, develop it."
* on his first bank loan: "when you start, the only thing you have is your will and your reputation. Never underestimate your reputation".
A great entrepreneur indeed. And when I read today in the press that he's now moving into media, and that he says:
"In conversations before and after a speech Zell delivered Thursday night at Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, Calif., the billionaire said newspapers could not economically sustain the practice of allowing their articles, photos and other content to be used free by other Internet news aggregators.
"If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content, how profitable would Google be?" Zell said during the question period after his speech. "Not very."
I tend to agree quite a bit. If a retailer / aggregator is making money of original content, then there must be a deal between the original content owner and the retailer, who has originally NO RIGHT to that content. Nor any right to remonetize that content, or the space around that content since it's being promoted through that content. (by the way I'm using a pix from Sam from this article with no right, it has no creative commons tag... and although I'm stating my source, am I allowed to post the pix ?)
I have a similar story these days: our friends from latelelibre.fr have been putting a lot of effort in creating their online property, paying for their time, colleagues with their own money. How come big media such as liberation.fr, or the Dauphine Libéré don't even post a link to them, and link to a video that has been taken from their site and republished elsewhere (and of course, although these other sites very strongly deny stealing other people's content, and do not make any effort to take down these videos themselves, they will boast publicly about their great traffic growth).
All the traffic that latelelibre.fr is trying to create as a legitimate media in terms of pageviews, of video views, that would actually help them establish themselves as a legitimate media is now going to other media who have taken the content without retribution and without linking back...
I personally feel there is a big problem here: confusion about what is legal / illegal, about what respects intellectual property rights and what doesn't, about what is ethical / and what is not.
Of course, Jason Calacanis disagrees. But the point of Sam is not about GoogleNews, but about Google and other aggregators. And I respectfully disagree with the statement "You can opt out of Google News AT ANY TIME." Right. When a burglar is having lunch in your own kitchen, you ask him to please leave ? He shouldn't have come in in the first place.
The discussion thread on Jason's post is interesting, and I'd advice you to follow the rants on Techmeme as well. In there, there's a link to a Wharton article on the business model of online newspapers; and a strong case by Doc Searls stating:
"If you don't want people to read editorial anywhere but on paper, don't put it on the Web, or embed code that tells search engines not to index it."
Again, the case is not about about print vs. web media. It's about people putting money to try to make a living, and other people grabbing it for free and making a bigger buck out of it, before the the original guy managed to grab the money he deserved.
It reminds me of the license and franchise business. No one can use a Walt Disney character, and no one can start a McDonald's restaurant without a proper authorization, a deal and a contract beforehand.
But then on the web, why should content be so easily stolen ?
How do we solve this problem ?