Wednesday, January 28, 2009

the informal inside the formal

Even in the U.S., informal merchants are part of what keeps the formal economy afloat. Consider the newspaper hawkers of South Florida, who testified recently against a proposed ban on street selling (see The Suncoast News.) By turning to a network of informal roadside hawkers to augment the distribution of their papers, formal Newspaper companies gain circulation (and, by extension, advertising revenue through higher readership numbers.) The newspaper companies do not pay these hawkers and provide them no benefits, other than orange safety vests. Pasco County Commissioners vowed to create an exemption in the proposal to allow street sales of newspapers. But no word on whether the commissioners understand that their proposal will also block people from selling peanuts on the streets, too.


Subtopia said...

Sort of makes me think about the informal distribution economy that blogs serve for th formal media outlets. I know i link to tons of media link, using their photos, and it is sort of understood, as far as i read it, that these media syndicates like the NYT could theoretically sue me for rights infringement, but for the most part never would because of the incredible visibility blogs bring to the media market.
as a blogger am i part of an informal economy of information, that is building an independence? an autonomy that is counter to the formal info markets of traditional media? or am i just a stooge of these bigger syndicates providing them endless strems of free advertising?

rn said...

Subtaupe: There is a difference. The fact that you link to their sites is not a direct mechanism for increasing corporate revenues. A hawker selling copies at the roadside is.

Regarding the law, the difference between linking and framing is crucial. A link is not, so far as I understand it, infringing on copyright because it refers the reader without stealing content. If you simply framed someone else's work and presented it as yours, as some news aggregating sites used to do, that would be a legal issue.

Now, for the stooge factor: we all rely on traditional media, even as we attempt to break free. This doesn't automatically make us stooges. I'm not sure there's an informal economy of info. But in a sense, writing and journalism have always been classic informal professions. There's no license to get: you just set out your shingle and proclaim that you're a writer. And with the web, you don't have to have money to simply put your words out there.