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Posted by on Jul 24, 2009 in Media, Science & Technology | 8 comments

A.P. Cracks Down On Web Use Of Its Content

This will likely ricochet around the blogosphere today:

Taking a new hard line that news articles should not turn up on search engines and Web sites without permission, The Associated Press said Thursday that it would add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it, and that notifies The A.P. about how the article is used.

Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.

Asked if that stance went further than The A.P. had gone before, he said, “That’s right.” The company envisions a campaign that goes far beyond The A.P., a nonprofit corporation. It wants the 1,400 American newspapers that own the company to join the effort and use its software.

AP doesn’t want its content to show up in search results? Really? Of course not. Get real! What they want is to be listed in Google results and also paid for the right.

Remember, Google went out of its way recently to specifically remind publishers that “the very backbone of the web” allows them to control who can access their content and at what price:

For more than a decade, search engines have routinely checked for permissions before fetching pages from a web site. Millions of webmasters around the world, including news publishers, use a technical standard known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) to tell search engines whether or not their sites, or even just a particular web page, can be crawled. Webmasters who do not wish their sites to be indexed can and do use the following two lines to deny permission:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

I started out a defender of AP. This nonsense has turned me away. I rarely point to or quote from AP anymore. Reuters is my wire service of choice. Their Editor in Chief, David Schlesinger, said last month in a speech to the International Olympics Committee Press Commission titled Rethinking rights, accreditation, and journalism itself in the age of Twitter:

But the point, I hope, is clear.
The old means of control don’t work.
The old categories don’t work.
The old ways of thinking won’t work.
We all need to come to terms with that.

Fundamentally, the old media won’t control news dissemination in the future. And organisations can’t control access using old forms of accreditation any more.

Those statements mean what they say and not necessarily more.

I am not arguing that newspapers and magazines and news services will die.
No, just that they must change.

Read the whole speech.

AP is in a bad place. AP expects its revenue to fall this year and next, after seeing revenue rise 5% last year. They will be eliminating about 10% of payroll costs by the end of the year. But so long they think this kind of retrograde action is innovation, the death spiral will continue.

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