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James Murdoch: Surprised By Schmidt, Search Sites Should Give Us Answers

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His father took a seat – next to News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and her new iPad – to hear News Corp (NYSE: NWS) EMEA CEO James Murdoch broaden the pay-for-news debate in to a grand call to salvage the sustainability of all cultural industries, during a lecture in London.

It was a salvo that lauded 300-year-old copyright law in wide-ranging, philosophical terms. But – in his speech and a later session with journalists – Murdoch also got specific, variously criticising those pilfering search engines, the “utopian rhetoric” that all content must be free and a scheme to digitise newspapers for libraries. Here are the key bits, or the full transcript

Murdoch referred continually to the Statute of St Anne, a landmark introduction of literary copyright in to British law in 1710: “We should surely applaud the wisdom and foresight of the legislators of three hundred years ago.”

He sought to drape this struggle not just in the interests of big conglomerates but of the economic livelihoods of 1.2 million ordinary European media workers he said could lose their jobs to piracy by 2015, citing Tera research.

“It’s not just people in advertising agencies in SoHo,” he later told paidContent:UK. “It’s people who are driving trucks, who are craftsman, who are doing technical support work – it’s real jobs and it’s lots of them” … “I’m not just talking about big global media companies – this is writers … these are real jobs, they’re good jobs.”

Surprised by Schmidt

Comments (via FT) from Google (NSDQ: GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt that Google is talking over news monetisation with News Corp seemed innocuous enough at the time, even a repetition of previous remarks.

But Murdoch, speaking with reporters, seemed taken aback. “I was surprised that was put in the public realm, but he went and did that,” he said. “There have been discussions – there are discussions around that.

“What was encouraging, from our perspective, is that there’s a recognition that … not making a contribution at all is not really enough; that there is another set of answers required. It’s up to them whether we’re going to be a part of that. (It was) a real recognition that the approach until today doesn’t work.”

Search engines should pay up

Search companies and aggregators skim content from a thousand sources, sell it to clients, scoop up advertising revenues and put little or nothing back into professional newsgathering,” Murdoch’s speech said.

The situation has “moved against the creators in favour of distributors”. “Is it, moreover, unreasonable to suggest that companies that make a living out of indexing and sharing the creativity of others might make a fair contribution to those who create the material they need for their businesses? ”

‘Free’ is not pre-destined

“We should recognise the fundamental role that property rights play in the making of cultural things. Compared to the exciting rhetoric of the need for everything to be free, that might seem unglamorous, unromantic, and indeed hard

5 Responses to “James Murdoch: Surprised By Schmidt, Search Sites Should Give Us Answers”

  1. richardnash

    Funny, I knew James a tiny bit in college. He was a shaggy hipster dude, little blue sunglasses. He was master carpenter for a play I produced and directed in college in 1993. It’s a pity he’s drunk the Koolaid. Especially because he’s completely misunderstood the legal context for the promulgation of the Statute of Queen Anne. Wish I could send him a copy of Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright by Mark Rose pubbed by the University Press of his and my alma mater just as we were there and working together.

  2. Because of Internet, casual sharing ideas and big chunks of text has became so widespread. Face it, this is REALITY! And the trend is practically unstoppable! The smartest thing we all can do is just to use it.

    For example, my newest site presents information found on the Web in the unique “Thought+Quotes” format.

    Yes, in a way, it “skims content from a thousand sources”. Then presents short, but the most interesting Quotes.
    But it’s very similar to what YOUR article does too :-)

  3. Josephus

    I think if all media companies go that route — slam up the pay walls — all you’re going to get is more blogging and more underground journalism. That would be both good and bad.
    Good because most media companies (and some individual bloggers) are no longer referees. They are ideologically inclined. So it is difficult to get accurate, objective reporting. Pay walls will slow down the distribution of that quality — if it ever happens to appear again.
    The Bad News is that as you resort to the community, you sacrifice quality and professionalism.
    Speed is the name of the game these days…at the sacrifice of accuracy. ‘
    Mobile computing COULD be the savior to all this. People WILL pay for convenience and portability. If the mobilization of content results in bringing back the “walled garden” of a smart phone or iPad apparatus, this could be a moot conversation.
    Google would charge anyone to search for news on their mobile app…and therefore bank enough money to pay for that content. Subscriptions to niche content SHOULD go up under this model.

  4. Epicly well said Barry. As a content-product myself, like so many others on this site, I can’t help but wonder had Murdoch Media embraced and adapted to the internet, rather than maintain an ignorant stance of “stuff has been like this for 300 years, Google are big bad mean people”, how much more money they’d be making.

  5. Lauding a 300-yr old copyright law, demonstrating mind-boggling ignorance of the function of news aggregation and internet culture, and criticising efforts to safeguard our information legacy for future generations…. It is heartbreakingly sad to see how utterly disconnected from the real world these people are, and how they try to impose their own delusional reality-bubble on the rest of the world.. The Murdochs really are their own worst enemy.