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The Associated Press and Intellectual Property Protection


The Associated Press is a not-for-profit news cooperative that spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year gathering and sharing news of public interest from around the world. Licensing of this content by our members is critical to support our news operations. In the new digital content economy, however, a significant amount of AP news and news from AP members is used without permission or fair compensation. This situation has serious consequences: it dilutes the value of news for licensors and advertisers; it fragments and disperses content so widely that consumers end up relying on fragmented coverage to get their news despite the availability of comprehensive and authoritative coverage on a 24-hour basis.
Recently, The Associated Press Board of Directors announced it would undertake an initiative to affirm the value of original news reporting and protect the news industry’s content from being misappropriated online. The initiative would find new ways to enhance consumers’ ability to find authoritative news coverage online. In addition, the AP Board asked AP to examine creation of a rights-based service that would ensure content owners and publishers earn a fair return on their news investments

1.Why is this newsworthy?

The action by the AP Board was an important acknowledgment by the news cooperative that it needs to adjust its practices and work together to keep original journalism economically viable by promoting licensed used of original news content and increasing direct consumer engagement with the sources of that news.

2. What do AP and the news industry want to accomplish?
Our mission is two-fold: enable consumers to find news from authoritative and original sources in the most flexible ways and to ensure that those who gather, report and publish the news are properly reimbursed for it.

3. Why is this important?
The organized news media perform a critical function in a free society. The news media protect the public’s right to know by enforcing freedom of information laws, sending reporters into war-torn regions and covering everything from natural disasters, local legislators and more to file unbiased reports. Pressing for government accountability and covering global conflicts have significant costs -- both financial and human. The Associated Press alone spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year in its newsgathering operation, covering everything from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to every statehouse in the United States. AP journalists must be present whenever and wherever news occurs, at great cost to AP, and sometimes at great risk to themselves. The same is true of every news organization. Safeguarding investments to gather and share news is critical to a democratic society.

4. What does the initiative involve?
Our goal is to improve consumers’ ability to find the most authoritative news coverage while also ensuring a fair return to those who invest in the original reporting of news. The initiative will involve a variety of steps, including something we refer to as search pages, or a “news guide” that would help point consumers to sources of original reporting. It also will involve creation of rights-based services to help publishers and those who originate news to facilitate new distribution and revenue models.

5. What is meant by “rights-based services"?
AP already processes text content from more than 1,100 news providers as part of its “Digital Cooperative” program. This effort assigns tags to the content that make it easier to search and sort news stories by category, location and individuals named, among other things. The rights-based service will enable new licensing models for news distribution and consumption. We believe this will encourage greater innovation in how authoritative news is delivered to the public.

6. What do you mean by “search pages”?
When consumers look for news today on search engines, they often get directed in a random fashion to a wide variety of news sources, blogs and other Web pages. Searches on breaking news topics such as floods, earthquakes and shootings don’t dependably produce results from authoritative local news sources, and often not even to those media responsible for producing the news stories. AP will work with its member newspapers, broadcasters and other media to create a set of search-optimized pages that will guide users to the most timely, authoritative coverage related to their searches

7. Is AP going to put up a “toll booth” around its content?
No. The AP initiative is about opening up clear routes to authoritative coverage. Our first priority is to engage the audience with original reporting from trusted sources. We expect online revenue models online to evolve, with some content supported by advertising and premium content priced for subscription or a la carte purchase by users.

8. Why not just harness the so-called “link economy” to attract the audience?
The world has benefited from the link construct of the Web. The AP initiative is not about prohibiting this. Instead, it is about making sure that consumers have access to authoritative news sources and that they can engage with news content in a more robust and timely way at the same time publishers and content owners receive a fair return on their investments in newsgathering and distribution.

9. What does AP mean when it says it will use both legal and legislative approaches to protect its content?
AP and the news industry are eager to work with everyone – including portals and aggregators -- in a constructive way to make sure content owners are fairly compensated for their work. Like any other business, we may need to seek legal and legislative help to safeguard our business interests.

10. Is AP trying to crack down on what many feel is fair use of news snippets?
As a newsgathering organization, AP understands the importance of fair use. Fair use is a complex analysis done on a case-by-case basis. It defies easy generalization. The AP initiative is not about this; it is about making it easier for consumer to access and engage with news content in more robust ways.

11. Is this aimed at Google? At bloggers?
No. It is not aimed at any one company or Web site. We are eager to work with everyone to achieve a fair solution.


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