Assume for the sake of argument that if a paper like the New York Times has a future, it’s online. Can it migrate online and keep up not only its standards but also the scope of its journalism? No, says Judge Richard Posner of Chicago’s Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, because of what I’ll call the leeches — aggregating Web sites that suck off the Time‘s journalism and offer it themselves.

Posner raises the problem on the blog he maintains with University of Chicago economist Gary Becker. Thinking outside not merely the MSM box but also the box on which “the news wants to be free” visionaries stand so they can see tomorrow, Posner offers a solution.

Outlaw links. Or as he puts it, “Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion.”

Read the comments that follow Posner’s blog post. You’ll see that his readers aren’t crazy about his idea.

UPDATE: Listen to a conversation on Posner’s idea of changing copyright law by Mark Fitzgerald and Jennifer Saba of Editor & Publisher.