Big Tech Isn’t Stealing News Publishers’ Content

Cory Doctorow
8 min readApr 10, 2022

It’s Stealing Their Money.

A row of newspaper boxes on a lonely sidewalk; their windows are filled with the ‘falling binary’ Matrix waterfall effect.

Governments around the world — Australia, France, Brazil, and now Canada —have fallen in love with the idea of creating a pseudo-copyright system that requires tech companies to pay license fees to news publishers when their users quote the news.

These governments start from the (correct) premise that a vigorous, independent news sector is vital to democracy, and the (likewise correct) premise that there’s something fundamentally crooked in how the tech companies operate, and then draw the (alarmingly wrong) conclusion that the way to solve this is with a “snippet tax” (or, more charitably, a “remuneration right”).

There really is a problem with the news industry and the tech industry. But creating copyrights in what would otherwise be fair quotation of the news is no solution — in fact, it will only make the problem worse, increasing concentration in both the news and tech industries, while undermining the ability of the public (including journalists) to discuss, report, analyze and criticize the news.

Let’s start with what the news is: it’s the thing we’re all talking about. The news is not a secret. If you can’t talk about it, it’s not news.

Where do we talk about the news? For years, a growing fraction of our news discourse has moved online. Pandemic lockdowns and isolation accelerated this process. To a first approximation, our online spaces are our public squares, the places where we reason together and debate about what’s going on in our world.

News publishers want their reporting to be the subject of discussion, of course. News isn’t — and never has been — a passive medium, to be read silently and digested alone.

The fact that social media is full of people talking about the news — quoting it and linking to it — is a feature, not a bug. Likewise the fact that searching for newsworthy topics returns links to the news along with brief snippets that help the reader decide whether to click through, read, and then quote and link in forums where they discuss the news of the day

Every nation’s copyright system has “limitations and exceptions” like Fair Use and Fair Dealing: these are policies that establish some uses of copyrighted work…

Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: