The Associated Press is ramping up an initiative to take control of its copyrighted material that is appearing online without a license, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Associated Press Chairman William Dean Singleton announced at AP’s annual meeting in San Diego Monday that the venerable news service would work with Internet portals and other partners who properly license content — and would pursue legal and legislative actions against those who don’t.
“We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories,” Singleton said.
The details of exactly how to ensure proper use and payment to AP remain sketchy at this point, said Sue Cross, a senior vice president of the group.
As to whether the AP would begin requiring a licensing agreement before a search engine could show specific material, Cross said, “That could be an element of it. It’s not that formed.”
One thing is clear and fully formed, she said: AP and its members want to ensure that the top search engine results for news are “the original source or the most authoritative source,” not a site that copied or rewrote the copyrighted material, according to a report in the New York Times.
So far, AP has not said that part of its crackdown would be a reexamination of the fair use doctrine.
Under the doctrine, news aggregators such as the Drudge Report and search companies such as Google have long followed the practice of collecting brief summaries of articles, maintaining that such use is allowed under the legal doctrine of “fair use.” Furthermore, aggregators argue that such summaries drive traffic to the sites of the originating individual news sites.
“This is not about defining fair use,” said Cross, who emphasized that news organizations want to work with the aggregators. “There’s a bigger economic issue at stake here that we’re trying to tackle.
But not everyone is complacent about the way fair use is being played out, especially in these economically troubled times.
“Pure traffic generation isn’t enough to pay for the content,” said Brian Tierney, chief executive of the company that publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.
But a Google spokesman disagrees.
“We believe search engines are of real benefit to newspapers, driving valuable traffic to their Web sites and connecting them with new readers around the world,” said Gabriel Stricker, a Google spokesman.
Meanwhile, Tom Brettingen, AP's senior vice president and chief revenue officer, said the wire service is only beginning to explore ways to get compensated for its and its members’ content. “This is a step, a step in a process,” he said, according to the WSJ.
Part of that process is that AP will be going after sites that reproduce large parts of articles — rather than using brief links.
The organization is hard at work engineering a system to track articles online and determine whether they were used legally, according to the Times.
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