‘Kill’ the lawyers before they kill journalism?

image Two powerful media lawyers are proposing extreme measures to “save journalism.”

Apparently Google must be stopped from indexing the web unless a vast armada of lawyers is deployed to vet ever jot and tittle whilst billing by the hour. Also for safety reasons “hot news” must be allowed to cool before the unwashed masses may touch it.

That is my biased interpretation of this opinion piece: Laws That Could Save Journalism.

Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine has a response titled First, stop the lawyers. This title is a gentler version of a famously bloodthirsty Shakespearian quote.

Shakespeare’s exact line ”The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” was stated by Dick the Butcher in ”Henry VI,” Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73. Dick the Butcher was a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who thought that if he disturbed law and order, he could become king. Shakespeare meant it as a compliment to attorneys and judges who instill justice in society.

Apologists for lawyers are everywhere.

Editor’s note: That’s my headline, not Garson’s, and of course isn’t meant to be taken literally. I myself am pro-newspaper. But here, we’re talking about the attempted corruption of the U.S. copyright system, which now allows for fair use and linking. Special favors for newspapers would reduce their independence, since politicians can always take away what they grant. If newspapers really want to control their distribution, let them come up with reading software with decent interfaces and first-rate search and aggregation capabilities. That way, more commerce will happen within journalism—if you really insist that Google doesn’t count. Usual disclosure/reminder: I’m a very small Google shareholder, although I love to beat up on Google when it deserves it – D.R.

5 Comments on ‘Kill’ the lawyers before they kill journalism?

  1. Garson O'Toole // May 17, 2009 at 5:15 am //

    Many thanks to David Rothman for promoting my japery to article status. There are of course many fine lawyers engaging in wonderful activities, e.g, Paul Biba here at TeleRead.

  2. The supposed defense of the line is a twisted misreading of the meaning. In fact, it’s a joke, and the audience was clearly intended to laugh uproariously, not be shocked about our-friend-the-lawyer. See my essay:

    “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” – it’s a lawyer joke

  3. Garson, not to worry. I doubt that Paul would go along along with the lobbyists’ proposal, but beyond that, he gets a special personal exemption for all the hard work he’s devoted to TeleRead. 😉 More seriously, if it hadn’t been for Paul, in the period after I had my heart attack, I’m not even sure there would even be a TeleRead at this point or at least not one with all the features of the current setup.


  4. Heh. I was going to post a link to the blog post I wrote about the kill all the lawyer misconception, in which I linked to Seth’s essay, but was worrying how to do it since I’m on my iPod Touch right now. But Seth beat me to it. :)

  5. If one is to maintain one’s sanity as a lawyer (which, after 40 years in the business, I fear is not the case with a large percentage of the Bar) one has to get used to lawyer jokes. The worst part about lawyer jokes is that everyone thinks that they are the ONLY one who knows the joke and they are SO proud when they tell you a joke that you have heard 50 times before. Lawyers have to learn to smile politely a lot.

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