FreightWaves’ editorial staff got a curious email from the executive editor at the Journal of Commerce this morning. One of our staff writers covered a story we’ve written about for months—the trucker strike that crippled Brazil and its aftermath—and had cited a quote that appeared in a JOC article, linking back to the original source. We’ve always respected the JOC as an institution (founded in New York in 1827) and thought JOC’s writers were some of the best in the industry.
The Journal of Commerce clearly does not feel the same way about FreightWaves. In fact, JOC’s executive editor told us that their new intellectual property policy prohibits FreightWaves from ever quoting or linking to JOC’s articles again.
We were taken aback: wait a minute, a media website wants to prohibit another website from linking to their content? Does the Journal of Commerce know about backlinks, search engine optimization, or how websites generate traffic? At FreightWaves, we love it when websites like Timber Processing, naked capitalism, Rystad Energy, and Bitcoin Magazine link to us because it helps our content reach varied, niche audiences, engage with new subject matter experts, and enhance our site’s visibility.
Besides, the unofficial motto of the internet is “Information wants to be free,” a phrase that Stewart Brand used in a conversation with Steve Wozniak at the first Hackers Conference in 1984. The full quote reads: “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”
Maybe that’s a good way to think about the tiff over JOC’s restrictive new intellectual property policy. It’s the conflict between the cloistered, siloed information hoarded by incumbent institutions like the Journal of Commerce and then sold for a premium (you can read their articles for the low low price of $49.99/month) and digitally native disruptors like FreightWaves whose mission is to increase freight market transparency by democratizing access to data and commentary.
In a way, it’s not really a fair fight. A large part of our editorial staff wasn’t even born when Brand uttered his famous slogan; we grew up in a world where free information was already a deeply ingrained value. The Journal of Commerce, on the other hand, was already 157 years old when Brand identified the internet’s paradigm shift. So far, it doesn’t look like they’ve caught on. To paraphrase Bane’s famous speech in The Dark Knight Rises: “You merely adopted the internet; we were born in it, molded by it.”
We feel—no, we know, deep in our bones—that solving inefficiencies in freight markets, empowering small actors, enabling better price discovery, leveling the technological playing field, and creating more transportation capacity depends on radically extending real- or near-time access to objective data. That’s what we’re about, and we pledge to never lock out our audience by putting our content behind a paywall.