The Associated Press has lately taken to strictly enforcing its copyrights and licenses, as it should, especially as regards search engines and news aggregators (the AP insists it isn’t going after bloggers…). The implementation, on the other hand, has been laughable. The latest development, the so-called “Protect, Point, Pay” DRM licensing system, has been given a brutal and deserved parody treatment. This comes as other institutions, including the New York Times, struggle to maintain cash flow to continue (profitable) news operations. David Simon, former Baltimore Sun writer and creator of The Wire, a vocal player in recent news industry ruminations, concludes that a paywall is the best chance for major newspapers’ survival. Rupert Murdoch agrees. Newspaper executives lately have been holding secret meetings trying to figure out how to maintain operational budgets, though always with a careful eye turned toward anti-trust and price-fixing laws. Newspapers want an anti-trust law exemption, which US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi supports but which the Obama administration opposes. Perhaps the news business should be one of those industries to which Bill Maher’s new rule apply: not everything in America must turn a profit.
In the meantime, the Associated Press has also rolled out their quotation licensing software, to hilarious results. One must pay the AP when quoting as little as 5 words from a story. Worse still, perhaps, James Grimmelmann of the Laboratorium, found the AP’s automated licensing software is braindead enough to accept money and grant a license to words not written or owned by the Associated Press. The AP revoked the license and issued a statement (“It is an automated form, thus explaining how one blogger got it to charge him for the words of a former president.”), to which Grimmelmann replies. Of course, Grimmelmann’s just trolling for attention and the AP did well to refund his money for an invalid license, but the organization’s tactics are drawing too much bad publicity.
The Associated Press’s motivations are well-founded. News costs money to produce, and there are numerous outlets using the AP’s reports without paying appropriate licensing fees. Worse, these aggregators receive money for ads placed alongside this content, thus making money off of the illegal/improper/infringing distribution of the AP’s copyrighted materials. But finding an elegant solution to this dilemma has proven quite difficult, and the Associated Press’s recent attempts have only exacerbated the problem.