How Reuters Should Be Responding To The AP's Suicide

from the step-up,-folks dept

Earlier today we wrote about the AP’s plans to DRM the news, explaining what a backwards plan it was. The story is getting lots of play elsewhere, with many pointing to a NY Times report, where the AP’s CEO Tom Curley makes some amazing statements:

“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. Curley said. The goal, he said, was not to have less use of the news articles, but to be paid for any use.

First of all, someone should sit Curley down and explain to him fair use — a concept of which he appears to be ignorant. This whole exercise seems to be an attempt to pretend that you can take away fair use rights via metadata. You can’t. But, more importantly (from a business perspective) this shows a near total cluelessness on how Google works. Yes, Google built a multi-billion dollar business out of “keywords” but they did so not by forcing people to pay, but by adding value to people who did pay. That’s the opposite of what Curley’s trying to do. If you can’t understand the difference between positive value and negative value, you should not be the CEO of a major organization.

Meanwhile, Ryan Chittum, at the Columbia Journalism Review says that people should chill out because the AP isn’t going after bloggers, he seems to miss a few points. First, the AP might not be “going after bloggers” now, but it certainly has shown a willingness to do so in the past. At some point, you can bet it will happen again. Furthermore, the AP claims that it’s really only going after “wholesale misappropriation.” Hmm. How is that defined?

“We want to stop wholesale misappropriation of our content which does occur right now–people who are copying and pasting or taking by RSS feeds dozens or hundreds of our stories.”

Dear AP: your RSS feed is for syndicating your stories. If you don’t want the content out there, don’t syndicate the content!

But, honestly, the bigger issue is that the AP actually thinks that these spam sites rerunning the AP RSS feed (which, I’ll note, links to AP stories directly) somehow harms them. These are spam sites at best. The AP claims (totally unbelievably) that such sites are taking “tens if not the hundreds of millions” of revenue away from the AP. Really? Prove it. These are tiny spam sites that get no traffic. They’re not making you lose any money. If your entire business can be undermined by someone copying your headline and a snippet of your first sentence from your own RSS feed, then you have failed in business. The AP needs to hire someone who understands basic business tenets, not to mention basic technology, law and economics. The amazing thing is that I’ve heard from a couple AP reporters who are sickened by this as well, and feel that Curley is destroying the organization. They know this is a huge mistake.

Either way, I’m still wondering why the AP’s competitors, such as Reuters and CNN (which is starting a similar wire service) haven’t been a lot more vocal in trying to get more sites to look at them as a friendly alternative. We recently noted that Reuters appeared to have a much more clued-in understanding of the internet, and Chris Ahearn, the President of Reuters Media said today: “Reuters stands ready to help those who wish an alternative to the AP.” That’s definitely a start, but it was just in a Twitter message directed at Jeff Jarvis, rather than a much more outspoken statement. Why not be blatant about it? Post a public statement/blog post/Twitter message/Facebook message etc. that says something like:

Dear internet: We love our friends over at the Associated Press, but we believe they are making a grave mistake in trying to limit linking and fair use of content. This seems to go against the very principles of the internet and the free flow of information, in which we believe. Therefore, we encourage you to link to our work, to paraphrase it and use it to develop your own commentary. We have our RSS feeds out there because we expect you to use them, and we expect you to do great things with them. We believe our content stands on its own in quality, and see no reason to try to hide it or lock it up when we know that through cooperation and sharing we can all build on the information — and that improves the situation for everyone. We look forward to linking, sharing and conversing with all of you.

It’s time for Reuters, CNN or any other news wire to stand up and publicly tell people to switch their links away from the AP and to their own content.

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Companies: associated press, cnn, reuthers

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Comments on “How Reuters Should Be Responding To The AP's Suicide”

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43 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

I expect to see reuters sit back a little bit, and then if the AP thing is working at all, they will turn around and go down the same route.

Remember, AP is NOT DRMing the news, they are spiking the content with searchable phrases and keywords (and other things) to make it possible for them to track back sources, and to find the leaks.

Talk about building a mountain out of a molehill.

bigpicture says:

Re: Reuters

You are probably onto something here. The disruptive thing about this whole internet and Google search is that it creates a situation where there is no need for the “middle man” because the “middle man” no longer adds value.

Examples: The promoting of artists, recording and distribution of their music. (recording companies) The collecting, organizing and distribution of news. (newspapers and magazines) The promoting of authors and printing and publishing their works. (publishing and printing houses) The internet will eventually replace all of these the same way the automobile replaced the horse carriage, the PC replaced the typewriter etc. And the only ones in denial of that inevetiability are the “middle men” themselves and they are trying to bring the artists, authors, reporters etc. on their side by selling the hype that this will be bad for them (the originators) it won’t, it will just be bad for the “middle men”.

Reed (profile) says:

Reuters and AP sitting in a tree

“Why not be blatant about it?”

It is my understanding the Reuters itself or the shareholders who make up Reuters also own a large stake in AP.

Funny how everyone differentiates between the two.

It is kind of like picking between the now defunct Firebird or a Camaro which were both owned by the same company. It is the kind of choice I imagine that exists in the “news” industry nowadays.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

exactly. reuters and bloomberg and the other wires need to stay quiet until AP dumps all this money into screwing themselves. if non-AP wires publicly advertise that they’re going to take advantage of AP’s sudden case of stupid, then it only increases the chance that AP will back out, and that’s directly against these interests.

Eric (profile) says:

smart business

I just happen to think it would be smarter business to wait till your competition has actually taken themselves out of the game before advertising yourself as an alternative, otherwise the competition “may” notice how stupid they are being and not destroy themselves.

also of course, what was said about shareholders of reuters also owning large parts of ap is probably true too

robert braunstein (user link) says:

AP

I’m missing something here. Does AP not have the right to make money from their own copyrighted content? Is it OK for others to take that content and make money off of it when AP did all the work at their expense to gather this?

Like all of the copyrighted video illegally placed on Youtube, it is not for you or me to say whether that has valley to the copyright holder it is for the owner of that material to decide what is done with it and how.

AP is right in protecting their material and charging others for using it. If they don’t make money they go out of business and then there is no AP at all.

robert braunstein (user link) says:

AP

I’m missing something here. Does AP not have the right to make money from their own copyrighted content? Is it OK for others to take that content and make money off of it when AP did all the work at their expense to gather this?

Like all of the copyrighted video illegally placed on Youtube, it is not for you or me to say whether that has value to the copyright holder it is for the owner of that material to decide what is done with it and how.

AP is right in protecting their material and charging others for using it. If they don’t make money they go out of business and then there is no AP at all.

fjpoblam (profile) says:

Re: AP

I’m confused, too. It’s of course impossible to block links to AP stuff or to demand payola for links or to demand, even, accreditation. To enforce honor would take more web enforcers than web users. There are just too danged many computers!

Honor among thieves? I’d like “intellectual property rights” over the stuff I publish, too. Them’s fightin words in the web world these days, too. Lots of flack against GoOgle and Facebook, as I recall, for trying to lay claim to folks’ postings without fair permission.

Where do we draw the line? Fair use of our own postings? Fair use of AP? Eminent domain?

fjord says:

Re: Re: AP

Don’t be confused. Ap is being retarded aand trying to have its cake and eat it too. If they make it more difficult for people to reach their content, those customers will just go elsewhere like Rueters. They can make any claims they like bottomline they are digging thier own grave. Either choose to have your content be public and deal with the few and miniscule spam sites, or control membership and keep your stories under lock and key.

Also, I feel bad for whatever inteligent people work for AP and have to deal with that dumbass CEO.

Phil Manders says:

Re: Re: AP

The line is being drawn at links and headlines and current fair use legal precedent. If it is linkable, Internet users have a right to link to it with a snippet/headline. One presumes the links would be to an AP story published by one of its clients as they can block their own site from Googlebots and casual readers if they want to.

This should be a stupid conversation overall…why would anyone not want links? What seems to be going on here is that the AP CEO thinks that, with people unable to twitter about the existence of a story, people will have to once again (or for the first time) use newspaper websites to learn that the story in the first place.

That is where the serious danger lies…if lobbyists can convince federal judges in the US (via senators) that AP can stop people from learning indirectly (as opposed to from an AP client directly) about the existence of a news item it created, free speech (about this existence of stories) will be decimated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: AP

The problem is that the AP is asserting they are the only source of ownership on facts and news. They regularly steal content from others and slap their copyright on it. Afterward they expect everyone to pay them for these obvious facts and news statements found in many blogs and other sources. The problem is that no one can “own” the news. There can be different ways to present the materials, but AP’s presentation is not unique enough from a blog or the other sources to introduce real differentiation and any additional value.

Lee Provoost (user link) says:

AP

i don’t know enough about the background of this story to judge, but a funny thing is that internet destroys. it destroys the wold as we have known for years (tens and hundreds of years). think about music industry, movie theatre, newspapers, snail mail, etc. perhaps a good analogy could be changes in climate (or meteors or whatever) that killed the dinosaurs. you either adapt or die. same thing with AP.

wildmofo says:

AP

well then, many good points. I think the bottom of all of this is that if people can get relatively the same info from so many sources, they will avoid using the ones that have limits placed on them and use the ones without limits more. Unless you have information that nobody else has, it is useless to use the limits at all. ANd once you publish it, people can quote the source and make a whole new article… When wallstreet journal proposed to make people pay to use their site, I never even tried to look at it again. I dont even know if they did….

I can get valuable business info from so many other free sources, it didnt bother me in the slightest. It would only work if it were legislated and that would not work in the free society.. good luck AP

wildmofo says:

AP

well then, many good points. I think the bottom of all of this is that if people can get relatively the same info from so many sources, they will avoid using the ones that have limits placed on them and use the ones without limits more. Unless you have information that nobody else has, it is useless to use the limits at all. ANd once you publish it, people can quote the source and make a whole new article… When wallstreet journal proposed to make people pay to use their site, I never even tried to look at it again. I dont even know if they did….

I can get valuable business info from so many other free sources, it didnt bother me in the slightest. It would only work if it were legislated and that would not work in the free society.. good luck AP

AGORACOM - George (user link) says:

How AGORACOM Should Be Responding To The AP's Suicide

Dear internet: We love our friends over at the Associated Press, but we believe they are making a grave mistake in trying to limit linking and fair use of content. This seems to go against the very principles of the internet and the free flow of information, in which we believe.

Therefore, AGORACOM.com encourages you to link to our work, to paraphrase it and use it to develop your own commentary. We have our RSS feeds out there because we expect you to use them, and we expect you to do great things with them. We believe our content stands on its own in quality, and see no reason to try to hide it or lock it up when we know that through cooperation and sharing we can all build on the information — and that improves the situation for everyone. We look forward to linking, sharing and conversing with all of you.

Regards,
George Tsiolis
Founder
AGORACOM.com

Anonymous Coward says:

AP's opinion on copyright over fair use

AP’s business decision must be made by someone with no experience in lawful business conduct; because making people pay for something that is worthless, usually constitutes fraud.

The bulk of the copy-and-paste activity is to message boards where the content of the article is picked apart by critics.

Not only do these board members see the opposite of any valued content in the articles, but the act of criticizing the articles is a specific variety of fair use–the term described in the above criticism of AP’s behavior.

I think the backlash is what Reuters is waiting for, because they want to see AP take their lumps on it instead of garnering any lumps of their own.

Chris Ahearn (profile) says:

Comments about Reuters

Hi – I am the President of Reuters Media. There has been an active discussion of the issues and events described here on twitter and I invite anyone to post their thoughts/ideas either directly to me @cjahearn or #reutersideas via twitter. In a recent post I said I agreed with the statement at the bottom of the post here.

So let me be clear here – put simply – please feel free to link to our stories either on the http://www.reuters.com network of sites around the world or (if they allow it) any of our news agency clients who also post our stories.

Fundamentally, I believe in the link economy (and how it underpins how the internet works). I do believe that producers of content should have ways of being paid – directly through licensing, via links that generate advertising/audience opportunities or via traffic sharing opportunities. I believe it is important to economies and how the world understands what is happening.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers (no one does). I think quality matters. I think what we do provides value to our clients and to our readers/viewers (I thank both groups for trusting us). I think that abstracting and referencing our content (with links) is fine. I think that copying ideas/ text with the intent to create a for profit service without licensing or a bd relationship is wrong. Clearly the line becomes fuzzy at some point- that said it is in everybody’s best interest to do the right thing.

I am not posting this anonymously. I am who I say I am. I welcome your comments. You can reach me at chris.ahearn@thomsonreuters.com as well.

Chris

Jef Martens (user link) says:

AP should try...

AP should try to make news / information that is temporarily interesting work to be in a paid environment.

They could do so by asking you only 1ct. for each story you view over at their site.

In the Netherlands a bill just was rejected for implementing a tax on the use of Internet to let the newspapers survive. Which is inherently stupid because it is the wrong end of the deal, just as taxing storable media (HDD/CD/DVD) for the potential losses for the music / video industry.

These are not remedies, but patches. People can buy and will buy quality content when the system is right!

Make pricing relevant and cheap. As an example, Apple did a great job, making songs a dollar. But this is still potentially more than the album, so keep this in mind when defining the price tag.
If AP would have 30k viewers a day, and then ask 1ct per viewed story, is this a good business model? You decide!

Sayan Ghosh says:

Share...both ways

I guess the moot point of AP is to get paid whenever somebody uses it’s content (via RSS, links, copy-pasting, et al). I find that there is no difference between the content, and a link to it. So if someone pays for using a link that points to a story on AP, then the guy’s paying for the content only. perhaps, ITunes would be a wrong parallel to draw (because of inherent difference between music and news), since when I buy a song, it stays with me, and I could pass it on to anybody, and the receiver would get it for free (and if he chooses to pass it to a hundred others, they would too).
Now supposing AP imposes a subscription fee per month to use any content for all it’s users, then I can’t do the same. If there are very less AP subscriptions, then even if I send a url (containing a page on AP site) on a tweet, most people won’t be able to see the whole story unless they pay for a subscription.

I feel that rather than outright charging the people for using their content, they could pay back some amount to users who’re helping to propagate the news (like linkbee on twitter)…if they resort to a fully subscription based service, then the people who are presently holding the subscriptions could promote their business and bring in new customers.

Sayan

Steve R. (profile) says:

Volunteering to be Out-of-Business

Well, a new entry in how to protect a dying business model. Start-Up Plans to Make Journalism Pirates Pay Up.

The Times wrote: “Last week The Associated Press said it would put warnings against copyright violation on its articles and digitally track illegitimate uses. It didn’t say what it would do to violators, but it has been quick to use legal means to block reuse of its material.

A start-up called Attributor, based in Redwood City, Calif., is proposing an approach that is more carrot than stick. It has developed an automated way for newspapers to share in the advertising revenue from even the tiniest sites that copy their articles.”

Prokofy Neva (profile) says:

Someone Should Sit Down Masnick & Explain AP is Non-Profit

I think it will be interesting to see how AP does with this, and I wish them well, because news-gathering is work, and it needs to be paid for, just like programming code is paid for, and techdirt.com never questions *that* — but just looks for the Internet to provide tekkies with lots of free work tools and free content so they can charge consulting fees on top of that.

DRM isn’t the evil thing techdirt imagines, it’s just that it’s evil *for this class of people* who need free work tools and content from Google to support their consulting and widgeteering businesses.

The idea of fair use, i.e. quoting 250 words out of a passage, was not intended to enable people to sell ads on top of the fairly-used material. This skewed and copyleftist tendentious notion of what “fair use” may be having a meme ride now, but it won’t stand up in court eventually. “Fair use” was intended — hey, just like Creative Commons!!! — to enable people to share and share alike works of art and literature and film by referencing rather than copying wholesale, which would then lead to both knowledge of works in the culture in general, and sales of the full work or rights to the works — which is required to enable content producers *to make a living*. (There are only a tiny number of people who can make a living the Free way, by selling books and taking lecture fees to induce others to Free up their content lol).

This Free tendentious notion of “fair use” cynically takes that basic notion of sharing without a copyright fee in “fair use” — and cynically turn it on its head, in order to make not only el-cheapo aggregator sites and spam sites use the links against ads, but all kinds of bloggers grabbing the RSS feed. In fact all of this together does drain away revenue, and the idea that it leads to traffic back to AP or the original sites paying AP like newspapers to view the ads isn’t backed by any factual reports. It doesn’t do that as anyway can see who has a website and looks at how traffic works.

The AP is a non-profit organization. Yes. It is not some evil imperialist capitalist media magnate. It’s a *service*. Other news operations pay per story because they don’t have the budget for bureaus and correspondents and editors everywhere. AP then survives on the payment from those articles. The aggregators and others defeat the simple means of this simple non-profit service from making a living *to cover its costs* — something that Creative Commons and Freetards should appreciate more than they do on techdirt. So it’s really quite disgraceful to see a writer on a website making its money off ads, inciting the mob to get commercial sites to kick a non-profit service in the teeth.

The nasty tone and level of snark in this article lets me know that this story is like a lot of stories: class warfare, by a class of people who fear loss of their free work tools and “liberation” of other people’s content (bloggers and coders).

The tone alone is a giveaway, but the misrepresentation of “fair use” as a concept and the failure to understand that AP is a non-profit making entity add to the faulty argumentation.

The biggest hole in this argument, however is this very vague and murky and subjective concept, always invoked by those insisting on Free work tools, of “value add”. Huh? Could you define that? What is “value added” about paying an ad agency that sells links and key words, as Google does? The revenue for online ads has nowhere near matched what the old paper ads used to be.

Most of the revenue in the Google system seems to accrue to Google itself in a really stunning serflike pyramid where legions of blogger-serfs earn pennies, providing the free tillable land of their blog space for Google to sell ad space for free on. Some miniscule percentage of bloggers can make anything remotely like “a living” from the Adsense. Those buying the ads often get disappointing results except in a very select niche of tech services. Value?

I really don’t think there’s anything magical or permanent about the Google ad agency scheme and its hangers-on. Social media outside of the Googlian empire could seriously challenge it once they figure out how to give away the same sort of serflike rights of AdSense to users of Twitter and Facebook to incentivize them — and add the real-time and select-my-followed magic sauce.

But if none of these bad arguments sunk this techdirt screed being seized on now by freebies and value-vandalizers destroying the news business, the last argument should: the call for rivals to kick this ostensibly “losing” AP in the teeth and “liberate” and “vandalize” further by offering the RSS headlines for free.

Therefore, while supposedly touting “positive value,” Masnick is inciting “negative value” by urging everyone to to liberate and steal moar.

Pete Austin says:

Reuters' Response

“Chris Ahearn, President, Media at Thomson Reuters …

Blaming the new leaders or aggregators for disrupting the business of the old leaders, or saber-rattling and threatening to sue are not business strategies – they are personal therapy sessions. Go ask a music executive how well it works.

A better approach is to have a general agreement among community members to treat others’ content, business and ideas with the same respect you would want them to treat yours.

If you are doing something that you would object to if others did it to you – stop. If you don’t want search engines linking to you, insert code to ban them.

I believe in the link economy. Please feel free to link to our stories”

http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2009/08/04/why-i-believe-in-the-link-economy/

sure says:

why?????!!!!!

Why the f>>> does anyone care about which news agency reports the latest sufferings of the world! Anyone that has a brain can see that multiple reports on the same story, yes story! Have only one thing to tell. That is to inform the public on the same dribble that has filtered through the channels of popular culture. One would only like their story to see light, if their view was blank of those surrounding the truth. Many is better then few!!!!!!!!!!!

Tony in Seattle (profile) says:

The difference between Reuters and AP

Reuters is a class act, and AP is uncouth. Reuters reports the news, and AP fabricates the news. AP is trailer trash reporting, and Reuters is really good investigative reporting. Reuters is responsible reporting, while AP is irresponsible. AP likes to report rumors and innuendos that incites trouble. AP tries its damndest to brainwash the American public. I wish AP would go away. I sure like Reuters.

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