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The AP’s Desperate Attempt To Outlaw Search Engine Links

An AP win could kill "fair use" and change the Internet as we know it.

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The AP is launching an all out assault on any use of its content that is not licensed (purchased) for use by Internet publishers and search engines. As I have said in the past, the AP is not just focusing on the blatant violators such as spam blogs or sites that quote paragraphs without attribution or link. On the contrary, the AP is specifically going after bigger mainstream blogs, Internet publications and believe it or not search engines such as Google.

Do you agree with the AP’s actions? What do you think?

The AP believes that desperate times call for desperate measures and that means demanding royalties from any company profiting from any aspect of their content. When Google links to an AP story in a search result with an Adwords ad on the page the AP expects to be paid. Include a rewritten headline link to an AP story Matt Drudge and you will be sued for payment by the AP. Add a paragraph snippet of content from an AP article in your PaidContent.org blog post and be ready for a call from an AP lawyer demanding their share of your ad revenue.

From the AP’s perspective, the concept of fair use is primitive and counter to their desperate desire to prevent their demise in an ad supported Internet content economy. The Associated Press Board of Directors, which is made up mostly of newspaper executives, has issued a member call to arms against anyone and everyone who misappropriates AP content.

The release quotes AP Chairman Dean Singleton who spoke at the AP annual meeting in San Diego, "The news cooperative would work with portals and other partners who properly license content – and would pursue legal and legislative actions against those who don‘t." Mr. Singleton added, "We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories."

Exactly what misguided legal theories Mr. Singleton was referring to became more clear as reports and interviews were published by other media. The New York Times quotes AP executives as stating, "They were concerned about a variety of news forums around the Web, including major search engines like Google and Yahoo and aggregators like the Drudge Report". In other words, they are challenging the long held assumption that search engines or news aggregation sites have a right under fair use principles to republish headlines or small snippets of content without permission or payment. Should the AP be paid?  Comment.

If you don’t believe the AP is really going after Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Live Search for republishing AP content in search results read what Sue Cross, a senior vice president of AP told reporters as printed in the New York Times:

" When asked if The A.P. would require a licensing agreement before a search engine could show specific material, Ms. Cross said, “that could be an element of it,” but added, “it’s not that formed.”"

Obviously, the AP doesn’t consider a link that goes with the republished headline or snippet sufficient payment. The AP’s stated goal is to make it illegal either through the courts or by new laws to link (with a quote) to copyrighted content on the Internet without the permission of the copyright holder. However, in the case of the Drudge Report where most headlines are rewritten, apparently even a link to their content without permission may need an AP license agreement.

If the AP is successful, and they clearly believe they will be, then the Internet will be changed as we know it. Linking (with snippets or not) to the content of others could become a permission based concept where one only links (and quotes) after they have received the appropriate approval.

If content owners like the AP can sue search engines for unauthorized use of their content and win a share of their ad revenue, then the Google apple cart could be turned upside down.

>>> Is the AP justified in their fight? Should search engines share their revenue with content providers?

Share your thoughts below.

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Author Perspective: The author of this article, Rich Ord, is the founder and CEO of the iEntry Network which includes this publication, WebProNews. In 1996 Mr. Ord started NewsLinx.com which linked via republished headlines to selected Internet business and tech related articles as they were published. NewsLinx was the first news aggregation site of its kind and spawned many similar sites such as Topix.net, Techmeme and Google News.

News aggregation was not understood or immediately appreciated by most mainstream news organizations in early 1996. At that time most newspaper websites only published a fraction of their articles online and many were experimenting with pay-for-access concepts.

Soon after the launch of NewsLinx, Mr. Ord was contacted by numerous news organizations including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, etc… asking if NewsLinx had permission to "deep link" directly to stories within their site. The answer given by Mr. Ord was that the Internet was based on links and that NewsLinx was really no different than a search engine and therefore had the right to republish headlines and link direct to the article web page.

However, to avoid action on what sounded like legal threats to Mr. Ord he offered to stop including their headlines at their request. The typical response in 1996 was that they did not want NewsLinx to stop publishing their headlines and linking to their articles.

The AP’s Desperate Attempt To Outlaw Search Engine Links
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