Five Questions with David Chavern, CEO of The News Media Alliance by Copyright Alliance
This week we would like you to meet David Chavern, CEO of The News Media Alliance.
1. Explain what your organization does and your role within the organization.
The News Media Alliance represents nearly 2,000 news organizations in the United States, from small local newspapers to national publications and international news groups, with members including print newspapers, digital-first and digital-only news outlets. In service of these members, our team advocates for the business of news on Capitol Hill, promotes news literacy and consumption of reliable news sources, and helps news organizations large and small find the best ways to adapt their storytelling and business models as we move further into the 21st century.
As the CEO of the Alliance, I help lead the charge for our members and guide them through the fight for a better political and cultural landscape for news outlets. I also have the pleasure of getting to work one-on-one with the leadership of our member organizations to figure out how the Alliance can best serve their needs, whether they’re an internationally known news organization or a hyperlocal newspaper serving a much smaller audience.
2. What is your (and your organization’s) interest in copyright law? How does your organization and/or its constituents rely on copyright law to support their livelihoods?
News organizations have a Constitutional right to protect their original content through copyright. When their copyright is violated or left unprotected, it becomes easy for others to steal content and deprive news outlets of the traffic that is responsible for much of their income. This is essential for the industry, because keeping publishers in business affords us a varied and thriving press, which is central to the proper functioning of our democracy and civil society.
3. If there was one thing that you wished the public understood about copyright, what would it be?
Copyright protection is intended to incentivize creators — in our case, investigative reporters and the publishers who employ them — to invest time and resources in the creation of original content. Our current copyright law gives publishers control of their news product, and that content cannot be misappropriated and used in violation of that copyright. Thanks to the Fair Use defense, copyrighted content can be used by others to discuss the original work or critique it, but the work itself cannot be altered or reproduced without permission, meaning our quality news producers have a cause of action against those who operate by stealing original content and misappropriating it for their purposes.
4. What is your organization’s biggest copyright-related challenge?
The biggest issue facing our members is the lack of protection over original and timely news content. The time and resources that news organizations put into breaking news and delivering it to their communities is significant, but this is countered by aggregators and redistributors who take that content without permission or payment. Unfortunately, payment for redistribution of copyrighted news content is very difficult because we currently lack a centralized entity or coordinated effort to enforce these rights.
5. If there was one aspect of copyright law that you could change, what would that be and how would you change it?
If we could change anything, it would be the Fair Use defense, which we want to retain its original intention. Currently, the defense to copyright violation has been swallowed up by the interpretation of what constitutes a “transformative use.” While most of the transformative uses covered under a fair use analysis require publishers to expand the utility of the original work or communicate something new, if taken too broadly, these transformative use rights can infringe upon the original author’s own transformative or derivative rights. Today, our content is in large part redistributed without protection. The Alliance would prefer to see the original content creators’ rights protected above all else so that we can continue to invest in real news.