On flicking through this week’s Economist magazine, I noticed a curious “Offer to readers” box that said you could buy reprints of the special report at £3.50 + P&P.. minimum order of 5. Now this isn’t very interesting apart from the fact that the magazine is £4.00 itself, and this special report was maybe only 1/10th of the magazine.
It assumes that people would pay to send this report around their company rather than photocopy it and pass it around, or perhaps scan and email it to the relevant people, or many other cheaper, free, or less hassle options (such as picking 10 copies up from a news agents). This box, however, raises the copyright issue by offering the alternative. Without that alternative, who would hesitate to do any of the above to get the information around? If I didn’t offer you a copy of a cut down version of this magazine, would you even consider going to buy a copy for all of your staff and putting it on their desks, hoping that they will actually read it? Would you consider that doing so would actually be illegal?
As an aside, there is a very interesting bit of insight into this in Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. I think I have mentioned in a previous post about this book, but he talks about an old subscription offer in The Economist where you could buy an online subscription at one price, the magazine subscription at another price, and a special deal for both at the same as the higher price. By putting the decoy offer in, you’re tempted by the higher price offer of both print and web editions, and I’d imagine they made more money as we fell for their marketing. Back to the post:
Of course they have a right to charge for the content, this is now my issue here, but in today’s society, I feel that we wouldn’t even think of sending them some extra cash just because we showed the article to a couple of friends.. that’s like sending money to a film studio every time you watch a DVD with people in the room, other than the person who paid for the DVD.. I want to comment in another post about how it seems like the internet has killed the worlds economies as regular businesses struggle to keep up, and as many people have mentioned we’re about due for a world reset, but that will come later.
The real irony was that the box itself was at the end of an article which was about Brewster Kahle’s internet archive & free library.. after covering a story on how he’s fighting to free up non copyrighted material, the Rights and Syndication department of The Economist is telling you to contact them if you want to pass these articles around. TELLING.. this is very interesting since the open library would surely be great if it had newspapers and magazines in it, but is there more copyright issues on this article than on many books?
On the internet, it is possible to find information about pretty much anything, much of it for free.. also slightly complicating things is that on the Economist’s own website, some of these articles are available to read, which would fall under the Internet Archive, available online (you can also purchase the PDF of the special report, which I’m sure you could email around fairly easily after buying one copy, no?).
I find the Economist a strange read, this isn’t the first time I’ve been completely confused by it.. for example, in a recent article on the environment in Eastern Europe they talk about a Russian millionaire who owns an Aluminum plant which has turned a few local lakes toxic.. how is this legal firstly? ..and secondly. . their extremely non bias opinion in this case is disturbing. It gives the message that it’s ok to do what you want to the planet as long as it’s profitable. I imagine perhaps New Scientist covering the same story looking at “Environmental devastation”.
I think it’s time to unsubscribe.