Reuters Wins The Web By Default

The_associated_press_building_in_new_york_city

The AP has a new plan to deal with the internet and bloggers.

New York Times:

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.”

Andrew Sullivan:

As the MSM struggles to make money, expect more and more of this. The golden era of blogging and linking and open discussion may be coming to an end. The suits are terrified of it. And their bottom line is not the dissemination of ideas or facts, but the making of money. If they have to lose readers but make money, they’re happy.

Ed Morrissey:

Let’s just call it the Fast Track to AP Irrelevance.  Without a doubt, the new policy will have a chilling effect on blogs and aggregators who normally link to their content.  Unfortunately for the AP, that won’t result in an increase of revenues, but in having the entire online world ignore the AP.  The Times itself discovered this dynamic when it put its columnists behind the $50 dollar Firewall of Sanity.  Not only did the world fail to beat down their door to regain access to Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Bob Herbert, they also discovered that their columnists became all but invisible in the rapidly-growing and influential New Media.

Besides, the AP doesn’t get to determine what “fair use” means; Congress does.  It has been a long-accepted practice for commentators to use small excerpts from articles in order to both report the news and to comment on its delivery.  This goes back decades, when reviewers excerpted novels and media critics excerpted each other to deliver critiques.  Just because the AP doesn’t like copyright law doesn’t mean it doesn’t still applies to them.  However, the threat of legal action and the cost to people working on small revenue streams will mean that their threats will mostly be effective.

Joe Windish at the Moderate Voice:

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.

Jeff Jarvis on replacing the AP:

The AP would rather destroy the link economy. Oh, it probably won’t succeed, just because what it suggests is so impractical and illegal and ultimately undemocratic and unconstitutional. But like a bull in a knowledgeshop, it could do a lot of damage along the way, trying to rewrite the fair use that is the basis of the democratic conversation and rushing its members to even earlier graves by hiding their content from the readers it is meant to serve. Note well that most news organizations depend upon fair use every day when they quote somebody else’s story or comment on somebody else’s content. The AP is dangerous.

But that’s not the reason to replace it (it’s merely a bonus). No, the reason to replace the AP is because is that it is hopelessly, mortally outmoded for the digital age and its ownership structure – I blame its board of newspaper owners more than I blame its management – won’t let it be transformed for our new reality. We need a replacement that will better serve journalism and the public, not to mention the democracy.

Debra Cassens Weiss at ABA Journal

Erik Sherman at Bnet

Techdirt

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