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Posted by on Apr 6, 2009 in Media | 0 comments

AP Threatens To Sue To Protect Newspaper Content From Being Used On Websites Without Licensing

In an era when the Internet, economy, and changing habits of young people in how and where they get their information is decimating the standard newspaper and news agency business models, it sounds as of the Associated Press is throwing down the gauntlet to Google — and to weblogs and other sites — and threatening to sue sites that use it’s content without licensing.

This story could be a huge one (for instance, this site will soon probably halt linking anything from AP if it means that unless we quote X number of words according to a formula we’re accused of violating copyrights):

The Associated Press and its member newspapers will take legal action against Web sites that use newspaper articles without legal permission, the group said on Monday, in a clear shot at aggregators like Google.

In a speech at The A.P.’s annual meeting in San Diego, William Dean Singleton, chairman of the group, said, “We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories.”

In a statement, The A.P. said it would develop a system to track news articles online and determine whether they were being used legally.

This story is likely to cause a stir on websites and weblogs, but from the AP’s standpoint it is a logical response to what is going on now.

The bottom line is that there is an increasing appetite for news but an increasingly unwillingness on the part of news consumers to pay for it. It isn’t just newspapers and radio stations: Pajamas Media also discovered that the Internet isn’t a financial gold mine for news.
The New York Times story goes on to say this:

The statement did not mention Google or any other adversary by name, but many newspaper executives have spoken recently about their concern that Google and other major aggregators and Web portals are making money from the newspapers’ work, by selling ads on news pages that turn up their articles.

News organizations have been loath to take on Google, whose search engine drives much of the traffic to their own sites. But at a time when newspaper revenue is collapsing and some papers are closing, the prospect of getting a share of Google’s revenue is more tempting than ever.

Google News shows headlines and a sentence or two of an article, but to read the entire piece, the user has to click through to the news organization’s own site. The company has argued that that limited use is allowed without permission.

The A.P. and other wire services have agreements with Google for their content to appear on Google News pages, but newspapers generally do not. But the action announced on Monday was characterized as “a newspaper industry initiative,” led by The A.P., which is owned by more than 1,400 United States member newspapers.

In its statement, The A.P. said it would work with those who legally license newspaper articles, and “pursue legal and legislative actions against those who don’t.”

If this becomes too iffy an area for bloggers what will happen is that sites (such as this) will forgo AP and use Reuters or AFP.

But people who run weblogs are deluding themselves by going after AP on this — or continuing the now cliched drumbeat of near contemptuous comments about the mainstream media: as we have noted MANY times on this site in MANY posts, most weblogs copy and run material that is the work of mainstream media reporters and op-ed columnists, and then comment on it. The mainstream media reporters and editors — derided for being deluded, biased, arrogant — do the heavy lifting on the reporting and think pieces and bloggers use it to fill their blog pages.

Take away the newpaper/news agency SOURCE MATERIAL and many blogs would be hard pressed for content. Few do original report and among political weblogs few do a large number of posts that don’t deal with just breaking news or the latest political ripple.

On the other hand, many publications such as the LA Times, Washington Post, New York Times, The Week magazine, Newsweek, and Time encourage bloggers to link to their stuff and have their bloggers or people in charge of the web send them links and summaries. Why? Because it increases hits to their sites and keeps their name brand alive.

So there is a segment of the news media — yes, the dreaded, biased, hated, short-sighted mainstream media (as some see it) — that work closely with weblogs and like getting links and having their material discussed.

The weblog organization Media Bloggers — this site proudly belongs to it — deals with legal issues and to join prospective members have to take a course dealing with some of these issues. The site is HERE.

SOME OTHERS’ VIEWS:

Gawker:

Dean Singleton, the chairman of the Associated Press, has unveiled a new initiative to “protect news content from misappropriation online.” Translation: People, please stop Googling the news!

The New York Times says Google is the top target here — which is confusing, because Google licenses the AP newswire and hosts its articles on its own site (such as this story about the earthquake in Italy — don’t sue us, Dean!).

The AP’s own statement doesn’t clarify matters much. But it sounds like the AP, which is a cooperative owned by 1,400 U.S. newspapers, wants to go after Google and other online headline aggregators for misuse of all of its members’ stories, not just wire copy.

James Joyner:

Last June, AP threatened to sue bloggers for copying their content (see “AP Fair Use Guidelines” and “Wire Service Theft for some backstory). They ultimately thought the better of it, partly as a result of mediation by the Media Bloggers Association but the basic question — what constitutes “Fair Use” in matters of breaking news — was never really resolved. Further, as MBA president Bob Cox notes, one can be right on the legal merits, win in court, and still go bankrupt defending yourself.

I’ll be interested to see where AP is going with this. Keeping themselves out of the aggregators — the main gatekeepers for entry on the Web these days — will just get them bypassed. And suing bloggers will get themselves left out of the discussion without adding much to their own bottom line.


UPDATE:
The AP is making this statement within the context of it having to lower its rates:

The Associated Press unveiled rate cuts on Monday to help member newspapers reeling from declining advertising revenue and said it would sue websites that use its members’ articles without permission.

Changes announced by the AP at its annual meeting in San Diego include $35 million in rate assessment reductions for 2010 on top of $30 million it already instituted for 2009.

The 163-year-old newswire service also will allow member newspapers to cancel their membership with one year’s notice instead of two, while offering a discount to papers that stay on a two-year cancellation notice.

Jim Kennedy, AP’s vice president of strategic planning, said in a telephone interview that AP would have to reduce its costs to compensate for the rate cuts. That includes not filling vacant jobs and possibly buyouts.

Dean Singleton, AP chairman and chief executive of Denver-based publisher MediaNews Group, said, “We feel it is critical to help our members during these extremely difficult times, and these numbers show our deep commitment to doing that.”

U.S. newspapers are buying out or laying off workers to stay in business. Some, including EW Scripps Co’s Rocky Mountain News and Hearst Corp’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have closed in recent weeks. The New York Times Co has said it might close the money-losing Boston Globe.

(The above is from a Reuters article..)

This isn’t just a matter of the AP facing papers that have declining revenues:

It’s now facing the prospect of fewer PAPERS.

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