A New Contract for the Press: Copyright, Public Journalism, and Self-Governance in a Digital Age

Intellectual Property, Copyright and Trademark, Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing and Internet

Article Snapshot


Mike Ananny and Daniel Kreiss


Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 314-333, 2011


This article proposes the creation of a two-tiered system of public compensation for open content journalism.

Policy Relevance

In the face of declining revenues for traditional journalism, policy makers should reverse the traditional copyright incentive system and publicly subsidize the creation of news content. This subsidy can best be controlled if created in a two-tier system where the first tier ensures open access and the second tier ensures quality.

Main Points

  • The expansion of the Internet as a tool for delivering news and other media content has increasing potential to further the democratic ideals of free speech and open communication. However, as the access to information expands, the quality and profitability of providing media content has declined.
  • In order to promote quality in the new Internet-based system, the state should directly subsidize journalistic efforts in a two-tiered system. This system would be optional, allowing content creators to opt-in to receive the subsidy in return for giving up the copyright on their work.
  • In tier one, creators of media content who are willing to place their work into the public domain would receive a base level of compensation. This is similar to the indirect public subsidy offered by copyright law but is reversed in order to allow for free and open access.
  • The second tier of subsidy would then be offered in order to ensure quality of public content. Such quality could be controlled by measuring five criteria for journalistic production: transparency, accountability, dialogue, reliability, and collaboration.
    • Transparency would allow for open and public scrutiny of the journalistic process before, during, and after news content is created. Through the transparency requirement, second-tier content producers could be held to a higher standard.
    • Accountability would need to be broadly defined, making second-tier creators of content responsible to the public who subsides their work.
    • Second-tier producers would also be required to encourage dialogue amongst the public. Such dialogue would help to foster public involvement and understanding while also utilizing the capability of the internet as a powerful public forum.
    • Content producers would also be subject to a reliability requirement in order to be eligible for second-tier funding. Such reliability requirements ensure that the public can trust the producer as a news source.
    • Finally, second-tier content producers should be subject to collaborative conditions. These conditions would require collaboration between producers as well as requiring the possibility of public involvement.
  • This kind of public funded approach to journalism would help to ensure the survival of high quality journalism in the face of changing technology. While the administration of this system would be complex, the ultimate gain would be public access to a robust, shared, and public source of news.


Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article