AP Finally Launches NewsRight... And It's Righthaven Lite?

from the really? dept

A few years back, the Associated Press announced plans to try to DRM the news, with an announcement that was mostly astounding for its technical cluelessness. It took nearly three years, but the project (now officially spun off from the AP -- who is still the largest shareholder) has been announced as "NewsRight," and is being described as an attempt to get bloggers and aggregators to pay up for "profiting" off the work of the AP or the other newspaper partners of NewsRight (including the NYT, McClatchy and others). Of course, the devil is in the details, and no matter how many details I read, this whole thing still doesn't make any sense at all.

At best, it appears to be Righthaven Lite. It doesn't sound like they'll totally pull a Righthaven, where their first move is to sue, but rather (from the various vague descriptions) it sounds like NewsRight will be going around simply trying to get blogs and aggregators to buy a license. But here's the thing: on what legal basis? That's the part that's not clear. Much of what blogs and newspapers do is simply not infringing (even if the AP likes to pretend it is). There may be some extreme cases where there is infringement, but most standard cases seem like classic fair use. And that's where it gets worrisome that this turns into a legal shakedown -- whereby sites are pressured to pay up just to avoid a legal fight, no matter how strong the legal position of these sites might be.

But, much more to the point, nothing in this plan appears to be about adding value. That's the key way to determine if a business model is heading in the right direction, or if it's really just someone trying to "free ride" on the work of someone else. NewsRight appears to be the worst kind of free rider, honestly. They're not adding any value -- they're just demanding people pay up to avoid a negative cost (the legal threat). Also telling? The company admits that half the staff is... lawyers, and that appears to include the company's CEO. When your 11-person company employs multiple full-time lawyers, you're not innovating. You're abusing the law. This seems like a complete disaster in the making -- and not because "information wants to be free." But because NewsRight doesn't appear to provide anything of actual value to sites. All it does is carry a big stick around and say, "pay us if you don't want to get whacked." I'm sure some sites will pay, but it's difficult to see how this adds anything of value to the world.
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Filed Under: aggregators, bloggers, journalism
Companies: associated press, newsright


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  1. icon
    Mr. Bad Example (profile), 10 Jan 2012 @ 8:12pm

    They're completely clueless

    I was one of the folks who sent this story in to Techdirt last week after noticing a short announcement in the business section of the McClatchy Company's flagship newspaper, the Sacramento Bee. Now, since McClatchy incurred massive debt a few years ago in buying out what remained of the old Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, they've been bleeding money and slashing costs-mostly by cutting content and employees. At the Bee, they've gone from nearly 50 local writers to less than a dozen full-timers, the paper has literally shrunk in both length, width, and number of pages, and there's only 5 or 6 local stories a day (the rest coming from newswire sources). All of these changes have been excused away to their customers as "improvements", although no one is fooled by that. The Bee has independent sales reps inside the doorway of local supermarkets trying to flack their rag, and the things people say to them are pretty right on..."Why would I pay to see a story that I watched last night on TV?", "What happened to your paper...it used to be good?", etc.
    My biggest question-how many writers, and how much enhancement, could the Bee alone have benefitted from with the $300,000 that McClatchy is already committed to spending on this fiasco in the making?
    I asked the same thing in the comments section of the Bee. In fact, I did so two days in a row, since for some reason the operators of the Bee's website saw fit to delete the long list of negative comments on this story for at least 3 days in a row...
    The people in the executive suite at the corner of 21st and P Streets in downtown Sacramento need to go back to the business school they supposedly graduated from and either ask for their money back or re-take a few economics classes.

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