While copyright law is right in the crosshairs as Congress debates the demise of the newspaper business, the story is far more complex than that alone. What once seemed like a bad dream, that Congress would actually get involved, is actually turning into a bad dream… Congress is getting involved.
Of all the ideas being floated around, the one most troubling is the notion of using taxpayer resources, either in the form of direct aid or tax credits (hey everything has a price tag and someone has to pay the bill) to support newspapers who, apparently, are incapable of supporting themselves.
Use “tax policy” (that is, tax dollars – i.e., our money) to “promote the press.” Which press, gentlemen? The press you represent or the press we the people are creating? We out here don’t actually need such a subsidy because we’ve been smart enough to take advantage of the new, free press and we are not saddled with the costs of an old press. Why should we then have to subsidize the market failure and anti-strategic stubbornness of the owners of those old presses? “Congress,” they write, “could provide incentives for placing ads with content creators (not with Craigslist).” That’s just plain payola. They also want “allowances for immediate write-offs (rather than capitalization) for all expenses related to news production.” Except we in the new press don’t have capital expenses for presses and buildings and trucks. Can we write off our PJs?
“The press” is often referred to as the Fourth Estate of government and quite honestly the only thing more troubling to me, and most people, than the notion of media acting as an agent of the government is the idea that the media could actually become part of the government, and that’s exactly what will happen when they get on the government dole.
We are witnessing a true Schumpeter moment, it’s a damn shame that our government is more interested in protecting the past than advancing the future.