The problem with DRM on news

Mary Hodder over at Napsterization has a nice essay on how foolish it is for news media to hide their content behind Digital Rights Management (props to Dan Gillmor for the link). Her two main points: The most important reasons news media companies and creators should not implement DRM is because of fair use considerations of the content itself, as well as the maintenance of their positions as reporters of news, and authorities of information.

Her point on authority is an issue that can be expressed purely in business terms: don’t release your content and eventually you become irrelevant (and thus out of business). Her fair use argument is equally important, but harder to explain to all the large corporations that have bought up news organizations in recent years, but who didn’t grow up in the industry. Journalism is a social contract wherein the press receive special access to political leaders, special legal status, and strong constitutional protection, and in return provide the useful, trustworthy information our democracy needs to survive. Fair use may not improve shareholder value, any more than anti-bribery laws improve a congressman’s annual income, but it’s necessary for the press to continue their vital role as a public trust.