AP Convinces Newspaper That Watermark Will Stop Mythical Evil Copiers

from the cut-and-paste? dept

Someone anonymous sent in an explanation by the Town News for its decision to use the Associated Press' hNews "watermarking" system which is the AP's silly and meaningless attempt to stop copying of AP content. The General Manager of Town News, Marc Wilson, explains why they signed up for the program using the totally unsubstantiated scare tactic, claiming that there are these awful content thieves out there stealing content:
Probably the biggest issue within the newspaper/Internet world is controlling the re-use of content posted on the World Wide Web.
Actually, I'd say that the biggest issue is figuring out a business model that works. If you're trying to control the use of content you put online, you're doing it wrong. And, oops, the hNews format doesn't do much to stop content reuse due to the magic of the world's worst copyright infringement tool: cut-and-paste.

Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out who believes this myth that copying news content is some massive problem. Sure, there are some spam sites out there, but they get no meaningful traffic. There are some claims that they cause search engine trouble, but that's overblown as well. Google and others are pretty good at sussing out where the content originated. But, according to Wilson, this is a huge problem:
But what they don't like the rise of the many companies that copy or scrape content off of newspaper Web sites -- and end up competing with the sites that originated the content.
Again, where are these mythical content copiers? There are spam sites, but they get no traffic and they go away pretty quickly. Besides, if you can't compete against a spam site scraping your content, you're definitely doing something wrong. If your brand and your community management is so weak that a spam site can compete with you, you don't deserve to be in business.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Lisa (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 3:49am

    Watermarks are worthess because of how easy it is to remove them

    So congratulations on making your images look just a little bit worse without actually benefiting from it.

     

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  2.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 3:53am

    Watch and see how The Town News will go under in this online world. They will become irrelevant, as apparently you aren't even allowed to quote their articles, thus making discussions on weblogs and other sites impossible.
    They won't be getting direct links, lowering their Google Rank.
    They will disappear from Google News, as that's "clearly" one of 'them content thieves'. (no, I don't really think that)
    Thus they won't be getting any traffic, which means lower ad-income, which means lower revenue/loss, meaning that they will go out of business.
    And then the AP will spin it in such a way, that it was all the content thieves fault that yet another newspaper had to fold.

     

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  3.  
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    Ben Robinson (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 4:09am

    What spam sites.

    I am an avid online news reader, i must spend an hour or 2 each days reading news online. I have never knowingly encountered a spam site. If i am particularly interested in a story i usually search for multiple articles to try and get an even view of the story.

    The best ways to attract my eyeballs to your new site.

    Have an RSS feed.
    Quote and link to other sites with more detailed info
    Allow others to do the same to your articles.
    Have a free and open comments system where the journalists engage in the discussion.

    Not doing the above things is the biggest threat to news, not some mythical spam sites that hardly anyone ever reads.

     

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  4.  
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    Tor (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 5:14am

    "Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out who believes this myth that copying news content is some massive problem."

    Exactly. A year ago there were two guys who got irritated on the Swedish pirate party and in order to provoke some kind of hypocritical response (I suppose) they copied the whole PP site and changed certain things on their copied site.

    The funny thing was that this just proved the opposite of what they wanted to say. In the end, of course nobody really cared about the duplicate. I mean, why would you go there when you could go to the authentic site?

    So PR matters and common norms see to it that copying never is that much of a problem.

     

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  5.  
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    Griff (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 5:14am

    Arguing against yourself

    1 Consistency

    C'mon Mike, you have implied that a paywall for a news scoop will never work because someone else can just repost the content and offer it for free

    and YET

    you claim here that the very concept of someone copying and reposting content is imaginary.

    Personally I've seen my own content which I placed on Wikipedia re-served verbatim through some other ad filled site, so this automated scraping definitely goes on. Why it would not happen for news is a bit hard to fathom.

    (And if you read the Wired article on Demand, you'll know that it is possible for scrapers to determine automatically what is the most profitable stuff to scrape).


    2. Watermarking.

    If the UK intelligence services have (say) 10 copies of an intelligence report for 10 different authorised readers, each one is subtley different in wording so that if it ever gets leaked they can see whose copy the leak came from. There are computer programs to determine when a high school essay has been plagiarised from known sources.

    Similarly, any automated news scraping service can easily be proved to have got the content from the originating website. (Watermarking pictures is unnecessary). Copy and paste won't defeat this - it will take active rewording by a human and THIS would kill the scrapers' business model. The question (if you agree with the logic of taking action against offenders) is whether the scraper is reputable enough to sue or run by spammers who cover their tracks.

    What I imagine the newspaper could do is ask google to suspend the adsense account of anyone who is clearly making money from plagiarised content. Not sure what Google would do, but if it was happening hundreds of times per day, the two parties would probably agree a streamlined way to handle it.
    This is not ideal (like automatic takedown actions without due process) but google have the talent to automatically decide for themselves if page x is actually plagiarised from page y (or vice versa) based on content scanning and publishing dates based on their own spider visits. They could even sell this to the newspapers as a service (subscription based). They would (for paying customers) check all pages submitted by the users to see if they are currently plagiarised by any pages currently serving Adsense ads. If they (google) believed that there was infringment, they could send an automatic takedown request to the offender, and follow it up with an Adsense suspension. Or else channel the adsense funds to the content originator instead.

    What if, you ask, the newspaper actually plagiarised some blogger and claimed it was the other way round ? Well, they could offer anyone a chance to have their new posts "timestamped" by google ? I dunno, if there was a need, there's a way. After all, they now offer a potential wiki sidebar on every page on the web so this would not be too hard.



    Now I know that, Mike, you think that trying to fight online plagiarism is like trying to hold back the tide. It might be futile, it might not be the best business model, but that does not make plagiarism RIGHT.

     

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  6.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 5:28am

    Re: Arguing against yourself

    you have implied that a paywall for a news scoop will never work because someone else can just repost the content and offer it for free

    and YET

    you claim here that the very concept of someone copying and reposting content is imaginary.

    Incentive. Yes, indeed, it will happen, but why would I go to the copy-site, if I can go to the original site for free? It's a different matter when the original site is asking me money for the same article.

    Personally I've seen my own content which I placed on Wikipedia re-served verbatim through some other ad filled site, so this automated scraping definitely goes on. Why it would not happen for news is a bit hard to fathom.

    No one is saying that it doesn't happen, but it doesn't matter.

    This is not ideal (like automatic takedown actions without due process) but google have the talent to automatically decide for themselves if page x is actually plagiarised from page y (or vice versa) based on content scanning and publishing dates based on their own spider visits.

    As we see with the DMCA takedown notices. Someone flags a piece of content as being infringing, and the site takes it down often without investigation.

    We don't need MORE gatekeepers in the internet world, we need less. As gatekeepers will only hinder progress.
    Yes the downside of this are the spamsites, but they are easily recognizable as such. And isn't a big threat. The biggest threat for newspapers is themselves.
    They don't want to move along with the 21st century, then they are destined to go down.
    Newspapers should focus their attention on making good content, and making sure that they build a good community. Word-of-mouth is a much better advertisement for your newspapers than litigation is.

    Plagiarism is bad, that, I'm sure, is something we all agree on. But is it worth that much time and money? If the net benefit of the fight is approaching zero?

    I, for one, only see those spamsites, if I mistype an address. If I search for news, I use news.google.com or some other aggregator, and those are generally well kept.

     

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  7.  
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    Jerry in Detroit, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 7:35am

    Who really cares about AP?

    As a member of the collective media, AP has become largely irrelevant. One measure of relevance is whether one can e-mail or call the writer. In articles from AP,I've seen alleged U.S. writers who have no provenance whatsoever. These are distinctive names that should be easy to find. Yet there are no e-mail address, no web pages, no blogs, no location, invisible in deep web searches. Just who are these people writing for AP? Do I trust them? No I don't and that is the core of the issue.

     

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  8.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 8:50am

    If your brand and your community management is so weak that a spam site can compete with you, you don't deserve to be in business.

    yup, id say that pretty much sums it up nicely right there.

     

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  9.  
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    TDR, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 10:05am

    Trying to find truth in an AP article is like trying to take a picture of Bigfoot.

     

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  10.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Re: Arguing against yourself

    you claim here that the very concept of someone copying and reposting content is imaginary.

    Did I? I don't think so. In fact I said: "Sure, there are some spam sites out there, but they get no meaningful traffic"

    Yes, the content gets reposted, but it's not taking away traffic from the original.

     

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  11.  
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    Paul Colford, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 11:27am

    TownNews.com and The Associated Press

    Here's the full text of this week's announcement involving TownNews.com and the AP:

    http://bit.ly/4j1Aai

    Key graf: Earlier this year, the AP and Media Standards Trust, a British nonprofit aimed at supporting high journalistic standards, jointly developed the non-proprietary, standards-based hNews microformat in a global effort to help the news industry adopt consistent news formats for online content.

    Paul Colford
    Director of Media Relations
    The Associated Press

     

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  12.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 4:46pm

    Re: TownNews.com and The Associated Press

    Paul,

    How does that answer any of the questions posed? Where are these mysterious content pirates and how much traffic are they getting? How do you stop people from copying and pasting and why do you want to?

    Thanks,

    Mike

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:03am

    Re: TownNews.com and The Associated Press

    I think it's so cute that they're giving mindless robots human names now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Tim Maly, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:47pm

    They're parasites

    Just looked more into Town News' site.

    They are middleman parasite consultant types, promising to help save newspapers. They are offering webinars, and "solutions" and blah blah blah.

    So it's not that they got tricked by the AP. It's that this is their pitch to papers. Tried asking some questions on their (broken HTML'd) story and I'm getting PR dodging the issue answers.

    They don't know and can't explain how watermarking will stop the problem. The examples he uses in response to other questions include the Bostom.com story that ended when GateHouse started using robots.txt to tell told Boston.com to stop pulling their headlines.

    And they're going to sell this to smaller papers who aren't the most technically inclined. It's like selling snake oil to a cancer victim. It doesn't help and it slows down them seeking an actual course of treatment.

    Makes me mad.

     

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  15.  
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    Ben, Oct 24th, 2009 @ 10:15am

    "Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out who believes this myth that copying news content is some massive problem." - Mike Masnick

    I am gonna go ahead and say the AP, most major news conglomerates, probably a fair share of lobbyist and perhaps some smaller groups. ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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