Copyright and the Internet
April 16, 2009, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Does the AP have a coherent legal case? Is this the key to its survival? If yes, how can the AP evolve to meet the demands for digital content? If no, how should the AP be addressing this challenge?

On April 6, the AP said it would “launch an industry initiative to protect news content from misappropriation online.”  Basically, the AP plans to hunt down Web sites that post its content without paying and pursue legal action.

To me, this seems like a ludicrous way to try and solve journalism’s problem of profiting, or simply surviving, in the Internet age. 

Whether they have a legitimate legal case or not is irrelevant.  While Web sites that use AP content without permission are walking the dangerously fine line between fair use and copyright infringement, there is no way that the AP can effectively and efficiently police every Web site on the Internet.  Right or wrong, the AP is fighting a losing battle.  That’s just the bottom line.

In the end, the AP’s futile attempts to stop unauthorized use of their content could actually alienate its audience.  People have become accustomed to getting fast, free information, and they will inevitably reject any organization that tries to take this privilege away from them. 

Journalistic organizations that don’t embrace the Internet’s free flow of information will eventually die, so if the AP wants to survive, it should start using its resources more judiciously.  Instead of ignoring reality and desperately hanging on to the increasingly obsolete top-down media model, the AP should concentrate on creating a new model that makes most of the possibilities presented by the Internet. 

First and foremost for journalism, the ease of access afforded by the Internet creates the potential for more people to see news content.  Since the journalism industry strives to inform the public, it seems to me that journalists should logically view the Internet as a tool that allows them to to their job even better.  

While I will concede that the Internet creates profit problems that still need to be addressed, the answer is not to limit access to content.  This goes against one of journalism’s core values.  

Plus, the AP comes of looking like a stingy gatekeeper, and with the rise of citizen journalism and user-generated content, this is no longer a look that the AP can afford.  

I don’t know how the AP can effectively address the problem of pirated content.  It is a moving target that may never be fully resolved, but one of the first step could be to shift the tone of the conversation from threatening to informative.

Many people simply copying and pasting AP content probably don’t realize what they are doing.  I know that educating the public on copyright laws won’t stop everyone, but a significant portion of people probably would start linking to AP content, something beneficial to everyone. 




1 Comment so far
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Good post. I wonder if the AP has considered a smaller “blog” fee that it would charge for smaller pubs? Probably not …

Comment by Rick

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