Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Financial Times Strengthens Its Pay Wall With Stern Words

spankingAs more (and more!) newspapers look to put some of their content behind a pay wall, the Financial Times is running a victory lap, noting that it is already asking customers to pay for Web news, and that this approach has been successful.

Fair enough. But if you’re that confident in your model–which, in short, allows Web surfers to look in on the site 10 times a month for free but demands payment for anything more than that–what’s with the following message at the bottom of each story?

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009. You may share using our article tools. Please don’t cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.

Anyone else think that strikes a weird tone between pleading and chiding? I’m told the note started showing up on FT stories about three weeks ago and that staffers at the paper are a bit confused about it as well. Here’s how FT spokeswoman Darcy Keller explains the message, via email:

The FT copyright simply protects our ownership of FT content. There is obviously a distinction between third parties referring to FT articles and linking back to and those that reuse and distribute our content without attributing it to the FT.

Obviously there is! But there’s also an obvious distinction between friends and colleagues who pass along an interesting article and, say, people who run sleazy “scraper” sites that publish other people’s copy in the hope of gaming Google’s (GOOG) search engine. Right? And more important: The people in the second category won’t be deterred by a copyright note–even a sternly worded one. Right?

Obligatory to-be-sure grafs: News Corp.’s (NWS) Dow Jones, which owns this (free) Web site, also charges for access to (some of) its Wall Street Journal. And it also tells people not to distribute stories without its permission. But in order to find that boilerplate language, you’d have to seek out the “Subscriber Agreement & Terms of Use” page, and slug your way through legalese until you got to section 6 (b)–“Limitations on Use.” Or you can just trust me. Does that make you less likely to copy and paste this story?

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