Associated Press Tries To DRM The News

from the good-luck-with-that dept

DRM has failed in almost every instance it’s been tried. Not only does it fail to actually prevent copying, it tends to piss off legitimate users and limit value rather than enhance it. And yet… people keep trying. But, honestly, I can’t think of anything as pointless as the latest move from the Associated Press which appears to be an attempt to DRM the news. That’s not what they call it, but that’s what it sounds like:

The Associated Press Board of Directors today directed The Associated Press to create a news registry that will tag and track all AP content online to assure compliance with terms of use. The system will register key identifying information about each piece of content that AP distributes as well as the terms of use of that content, and employ a built-in beacon to notify AP about how the content is used….

The registry will employ a microformat for news developed by AP and which was endorsed two weeks ago by the Media Standards Trust, a London-based nonprofit research and development organization that has called on news organizations to adopt consistent news formats for online content. The microformat will essentially encapsulate AP and member content in an informational “wrapper” that includes a digital permissions framework that lets publishers specify how their content is to be used online and which also supplies the critical information needed to track and monitor its usage.

Hopefully I haven’t “violated” that rule by quoting the section above. It really does sound like the mythical dreams of DRM that the software industry discussed two decades ago and the music industry discussed a decade ago. Neither one worked — and both of those were (theoretically) a lot more “protectable” than news. Honestly, it’s difficult to think of anything quite this useless:

  1. It won’t work. It physically can’t work. News is news. You can’t put any real DRM on it, because it’s so easy to copy text and remove any sort of “registry” tags.
  2. It removes value. Nothing in this move increases the value of the AP’s content to anyone. It does the opposite. It significantly limits the value, and for those who actually want to help promote the content, it now gives you extra incentives not to do so.
  3. It’s a waste of AP resources. At a time when the AP should be focusing on looking for ways to add value to create a better business model, it’s now about to throw away money, time and staff on putting together a DRM for news that doesn’t work? Talk about screwed up priorities.

This has been said before (multiple times) but you don’t rescue your business model by “protecting” against what people want to do. You don’t rescue your business model by wasting resources trying to hold back what people want to do. You rescue your business by providing more value and figuring out a way to monetize that value. Putting bogus DRM on news does none of that. It only hastens failure.

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Comments on “Associated Press Tries To DRM The News”

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interval says:

Re: Re:

I disagree. 1) Its not satire. Its real life. 2) No one else except Mike is reporting on this nonsense, and I think it needs to be exposed. If Mike were trying to be the Onion of IP law (or some other bizarre notion) you might have a point. I guess you’re just tired of reading about pervasive problem over and over again. I agree; its repetitive. But that’s the problem. It seems like any business that is in the business of information has some extreme need to bend ip law to give it control over that information; and the whole mess is just silly. This crap needs to be brought out into the light until people see how stupid it is. The constant bending of IP law really bothers me.

interval says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, I’m new here. I’ve never posted here before so I don’t know what I’m doing and blah blah blah…

You ever stare into the cold, blinking cursor of a monitor connected to the ‘net and just get every human nuance that every author writes in a blog? I’m betting, like me, a human, probably not. So f’off.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you dig deep enough into almost any system, you can find failure points. What makes techdirt often a monotonous drone of IP problems is that there is rarely an upside discussion anywhere.

Example, while a handful of oddball patents get approved each year, hundreds (and thousands) of good and valid ones also make it through the process. Your heart surgeon would be praised for having that level of success.

If you want to look hard enough, you can always find issues, but it doesn’t mean the system is broken, just that someone is way too focused on a very, very small part of a much larger picture. So when Mike suggests that we roll back Copyright or get rid of patents, he is dismissing the bigger picture based on only what he can see right in front of his nose, pressed up against a failure point.

Balance is something that is sorely lacking.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If you dig deep enough into almost any system, you can find failure points. What makes techdirt often a monotonous drone of IP problems is that there is rarely an upside discussion anywhere.

Heh. You don’t get far by making stuff up. A rather large % of the posts are on folks who are making stuff work.

To say there’s rarely an upside discussion is perhaps your own observer bias from someone who wants to make us look bad. We spend a lot of time highlight the positives.

If you want to look hard enough, you can always find issues, but it doesn’t mean the system is broken, just that someone is way too focused on a very, very small part of a much larger picture.

Heh. Again, making stuff up doesn’t get you very far. We’ve highlighted at least a dozen studies that looked at the overall system and showed that it is very, very broken across the board.

Balance is something that is sorely lacking.

It ain’t about balance. It’s about reality!

Anonymous Coward says:


“you don’t rescue your business model by ‘protecting’ against what people want to do”

um… wrong? if someone wants to do something and you are in position to prohibit them from doing so, you can make them pay you to not prohibit them. the key is to find the price point at which they’ll still pay you to not prohibit them. the better argument is that DRM is a laughably ineffective tool at enforcing these prohibitions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: nonsense

“if someone wants to do something and you are in position to prohibit them from doing so, you can make them pay you to not prohibit them.”

Seriously, how does this not sound like an endorsement for a protection racket? They want to do business. You can make them pay or prohibit them from doing so.

Look, this is a bad neighborhood, and things sometimes…happen…here. For a small fee, we can watch your store, make sure it’s safe, really take care of ya, you know?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: nonsense

Spreading news is human nature. There is no good way to stop that. The best way would be to lead them in the correct direction. It’s an subtle and sometimes complex way to do things, but I’ve found that a subtle approach (incentives, better product) works better and lasts longer than the “smack to the face” direct approach (DRM, Lawsuits). Plus, if done right, it makes you look better than when you started.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: nonsense

i suspect you’re trying to be sarcastic, but you’re only backing up my point. an xbox 120 gb hard drive is still $120, when a 1tb hard drive is under $80. MS charges you this ridiculously huge markup because they can and do prohibit you from installing a different hard drive. unlike DRM, MS’s restriction is very enforceable. you can’t use an unlocked hard drive online, which provides most of the system’s value. as i said above, the key is to ENFORCING the prohibition, and simple DRM is inadequate.

Jiminy Cricket (profile) says:

Re: A.P. Cracks Down on Unpaid Use of Articles on Web

“If someone can build multibillion-dollar businesses out of keywords, we can build multihundred-million businesses out of headlines, and we’re going to do that,” Mr.[Tom] Curley, [A.P.’s president and chief executive] said. The goal, he said, was not to have less use of the news articles, but to be paid for any use.

I’m going to let that breathe for a minute……

OK, nice goal, now please proceed directly to fail. Good luck with staying solvent.

richard says:

Green Dam

Hey AP, I’d bet China has some really effective software for what you’re trying to do. I’m sure they would copyleft you a license.

it’s somewhat ironic that an industry that’s been the beneficiary of the first amendment so often is now trying to bottle even the interpretation of it’s content.

They should just get a patent on “a procedure or methodology to propagate information of past events directly to carbon based lifeforms within 24 hours”

Then they could just demand “royalties”.

one other thing I’ve noticed, There seems to be a trend where someone posts a flame the second that a new entry hits TD. I usually remove the “crap” blogs from my RSS reader. We all know sleaze ball Lawyers LOVE them some IP MMMMmm Mmm. Smells like litigation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow… It’s funny, Google charges it’s users nothing for software that I can guarantee the AP uses frequently, but you don’t hear Google complaining. They made giving something away a business that makes tons of money. Provide content that people want to read and make it easy enough for them to get to. Hulu understood this and started making money so big content slammed the door down on them.

anymouse (profile) says:

Re the Onion comment and response

I don’t think the comment was intended to be derogatory towards TechDirt, but to point out how ridiculous some of these ‘real’ issues are, by comparing them to the Onion’s Satire. Some of the ideas these ‘industry types’ come up with are just so far out there that you almost hope that it is satire, but then they continue to push their stupid ideas on the rest of the world and we realize that they were actually serious….

Kirk (user link) says:

How is this considered DRM?

I’ve followed the links referenced in this article and I don’t see how you can make the claim that AP is planning to use DRM on its content. Instead, it appears that AP will be using microformats and metadata to express rights information. That’s entirely different from DRM. It’s no different than bloggers using the machine readable Creative Commons license to express that CC rights have been applied to a blog post.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending AP. There are some very real Fair Use issues at stake here. But to confuse those issues by bringing DRM into the discussion only clouds the issue. You might get more links/attention by taking this approach, but you damage your credibility in the process.

Further, as microformats become more widespread you’ll find yourself in the interesting position of having to use and/or defend the technology that you’ve characterized as being a form of DRM. Good luck with that.

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