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.

Filed Under: drm, journalism, news
Companies: associated press

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  1. identicon
    Kirk, 25 Jul 2009 @ 2:47pm

    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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