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.