Telling people how to get around newspaper paywalls

It boggles me that in 2018, experienced internet users keep posting things like this. Yes, you can read it without a subscription if you want to. My question for the mods is whether we are permitted to fight that particular ignorance or not? Either with explicit instructions or a LMGTFY.

Don’t we have a rule barring discussion about how to break the law?

Is it illegal to bzzbzzbzzbzz?

You want to know if you may tell another poster how to break the law?

No, you may not, even if it appears obvious to you.

I’m deeply skeptical that it’s against the law to tell someone how to read articles without running into a paywall–this is akin to saying it’s illegal to thumb through a newspaper at a kiosk. But I’d genuinely love to have my ignorance fought on this issue.

I think an argument could be made that it might be theft of services.

More importantly, I think it’s out of bounds to do so because we are owned by a chain of newspapers. Let’s not bite the hand that feeds us, people.

Yay for the Internet and all, but someone has to monetize all this content, here and everywhere else. Avoiding that just reduces the quality of journalism everywhere.

There is a credible argument that bypassing a paywall is a violation of 17 U.S.C. 1201 (“No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.”), which appears to prohibit circumvention regardless of what you do with the underlying copyrighted information. There is a credible argument that it does not apply because (like with your newspaper example) the reader doesn’t take any other step to violate the copyright.

There’s a decent discussion in this article (arguing that it is a violation). I’m not sure if there’s been any further clarification since then.

I didn’t say that it was illegal to tell someone how to break the law. It’s just against the rules to do so on this site.

But if you don’t like that rule, we can always fall back on “don’t be a jerk.”:wink: In general, telling people how to cheat businesses or other people is jerkish. If you make a habit of trying to read a full article of a newspaper at a kiosk without paying for it, the owner will chase you away. (Yes, a lot of people do it but it doesn’t mean it’s ok.)

I note that several people quoted from the article in that thread, which appears to me to fall under “fair use.”

No, I want to know whether we can tell people how to access material that the owners have chosen to make available under certain circumstances that are under the user’s control. If you don’t want us to, then I won’t.

Are we permitted to tell people how to run adblockers and script blockers?

If the owners have chosen to make the material available without a subscription and free of charge in other circumstances, I would not see a problem with that.

Given that this site largely depends on ad revenue for its continued existence, we would prefer that you not do so. I am well aware that in every thread here about ads, people come in telling others to get an ad blocker. They are certainly very easy to find and install, and many people use them. However, we would rather you didn’t.

(I am also aware that many people have had problems with the ads here. This is not the place to complain about them. There are other threads for that.)

In the age of sensationalized and outright fake news, when Fox News is free, but the NYT and WaPo are paywall blocked, one could make a pretty good ‘fighting ignorance’, argument, in my opinion.

Even many free news sites are beginning to paywall protect ‘premium’ content. Which irritates me enormously.

Now that I know it’s doable, I’m gonna see if I can’t discover the secret on my own. Thanks OP!

I’ve noticed that some newspaper and magazine sites have blocked the usual methods of bypassing paywalls while others have not. I think some recognize greater value from having their content read, shared and linked to around the Internet.

Edited to add that I found an article from The Columbia Journalism Review about paywalls and why some are deliberately “leaky” but as it openly describes ways of bypassing paywalls, I probably should not link to it here.

Took me several reads to see what you meant–and yeah, I misspoke. My skepticism was that using the trivially easy, built-into-most-browsers-with-a-simple-hotkey method of bypassing most “limited articles” paywalls is illegal.

Consider my ignorance fought. Thanks, Falchion!

Back in the day when copyright thieving sites were all over the internets, we didn’t allow discussion of them here. I don’t think we allow discussion of illegal bittorrent sites either, but I could be mistaken on that. Likewise the Dark Web, no?

Same thing.

your humble TubaDiva

The funny thing is, for the link in question, the Volokh Conspiracy site explicitly gave advice on how to circumvent or otherwise acquire their content when they first went to the Washington Post. They listed all the ways the content can be gotten for free, etc.

Using things like incognito mode or other rudimentary methods should be like fight club. Don’t talk about it, or at least don’t ask about it in ATMB because there is only one answer that is appropriate, and it’s not the answer I want to give.

I don’t want to get into nit-picking arguments of whether or not it’s technically illegal, nor how easy it is, nor how much it’s common knowledge. Let’s just say that as a site owned by a newspaper chain, we are particularly sensitive to issues of copyright and of payment for content. As such, that’s not a discussion we want to allow.

I would very much argue it is not against the law. The workarounds are specifically built in. They aren’t an accident or exploit, but how the sites are intended to function. They want it to be possible to share articles, having them linked from places like Google without any problems.

I mean, I can accept the idea that this is not something to be discussed here, but I would argue this is going above and beyond the law. It’s just an SDMB rule.

I will note, however, that this doesn’t give them more money from us. It just means that people are less likely to link these paywalled sites, and to be sure and quote the relevant portions under fair use for the conversation, and summarize the article. So my own personal opinion is that this restriction doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

But I’m not in charge, and I know this place has always historically been quite zealous on copyright issues.

“People are gonna do it anyway” is not a sufficient answer for us to change our policies.

Folks, we’re owned by a newspaper, one that would like you to subscribe to its offerings online as well. (Not currently behind a paywall, just asking for subscribers.) Be cool.

your humble TubaDiva

Good enough for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s the result of poor logic or technogical unsavyness that leads to thinking changing your browser settings is the “same thing” as copyright thieving sites, illegal bittorrent sites, and the Dark Web. They don’t want it, so whatever. I won’t post it.

If you want to talk about rules that are actually strange, For a while Something Awful was banning posters who didn’t start their threads in one forum with a comparison of the OP’s situation with that of a starving African orphan.