Wednesday, July 29, 2009

With Software, The A.P. Takes on Digital Piracy of Articles; New York Times, 7/23/09

Richard Perez-Pena via New York Times; With Software, The A.P. Takes on Digital Piracy of Articles:

"Vowing to fight unauthorized reproduction of news reports online, The Associated Press said Thursday that it would add software to each article showing who created it and what limits apply to the rights to use it. The software will also notify the A.P. about how the article is used across the Web.

The new program, approved Thursday by the A.P. board, follows through on a statement the company made in April that it would take on digital piracy not only for itself, but on behalf of embattled American newspapers, which own the A.P., a nonprofit corporation. But the announcement raises many unanswered questions, including who the intended targets are, what the legal limits are on using material online, and what redress it will seek.

At first, the program will apply only to the company’s own reporting – and eventually pictures and video – but the A.P. plans to invite its 1,400 member newspapers to join in next year. Newspaper executives have said that by taking the lead, the A.P. ensures a unified approach, saves publishers from having to design their own programs and circumvents possible charges of collusion against the papers.

Executives of many news organizations have long complained about the way blogs, news aggregators like The Drudge Report and The Huffington Post, and search engines like Google and Yahoo, use excerpts of their work, even when they also link back to the sources of the articles. Those sites contend that their practices fall under the legal principle of fair use, but the boundaries of that doctrine are largely untested in court.

Another complaint is that a link to an article sometimes leads to another second-hand user, not the original source, which can deprive the creator of some of the audience for its own site and the ads on it. There are also less- well-known sites that outright reprint articles, or large pieces of them, without permission, a clearer copyright violation, but there is little consensus about how big a problem that is for news organizations.

The A. P. has not said which sites it considers a major challenge, or how it would confront them, but its executives have made clear that the end goal is to get more compensation from the sites that use the material."

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