AP To Crack Down on Content Misapporpriation

Posted on 4/9/2009 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The Associated Press has become known for diligently—and, according to some, overbearingly and even inappropriately—policing its online news content. This week, the AP board of directors has announced that it plans to launch an industry initiative to protect news content from misappropriation online.

The news cooperative intends to work with portals and others who properly license AP content and pursue legal and legislative action against those who do not. Chairman Dean Singleton said: “We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories.”

The AP’s position is identical to that of other content owners: Web sites who use its articles and photos are pirates stealing AP revenues. The AP tried enforcing this stance about a year ago, when it asked the Drudge Retort (a Web site that parodies the Drudge Report) to remove several blog posts that quoted between 40 and 80 words from AP articles. This generated a storm of controversy, with the AP and its supporters saying that quoting the headline and first paragraph of an article is a copyright violation and opponents viewing short, attributed excerpts as fair use under the current law.

The two sides remain at an impasse, as most instances of such disagreements are typically resolved through non-disclosed negotiations or protracted legal battles, many of which are still ongoing. Beyond mass media coverage, nothing tangible was accomplished in the 2008 confrontation: AP content is quoted no less than before, and there are no laws or other guidance for bloggers wishing to avoid legal difficulties.

The AP hopes that this new initiative changes the paradigm. As part of it, the AP will develop a system to track its image and textual content to determine if it is being legally used. From the stock industry’s perspective, it is difficult not to be skeptical about the potential success of this approach.

Image-tracking services have existed for years; though they have helped some of the larger companies recoup a portion of lost revenues, it is difficult to say how much, or how much the effort itself costs in relation to the revenues it generated. Similarly, the effect of tracking services on the proliferation of image piracy cannot be easily quantified—all we know is that infringement remains rampant. While the AP initiative may offer it some small measure, if not the illusion, of control, there is no doubt that tracking content and suing infringers will not have the desired industry-wide effect of curtailing content piracy.

Copyright © 2009 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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