AP Not After Google, Bloggers May Be Different Story

The Associated Press plans on hunting down unauthorized users of its online content, a move that some reports say could put it on a collision course with Google News. Google and the Associated Press have been in conflict in the past, and worked out previous agreements concerning news dissemination. Neither company has acknowledged any sort of dispute.

Google claims to not be in the Associated Press' crosshairs over the news agency's edict about online content, thanks to a previous deal struck between the two companies.

In an April 6 statement, the Associated Press said it will take measures to protect its news content "from misappropriation online" by tracking Web-based content to determine whether its use is legal.

According to the statement, "AP President Tom Curley said the initiative would also include the development of new search engines that point users to the latest and most authoritative sources of breaking news."

In turn, this has led to questions about whether Google, as one of the main online news disseminators via Google News, risks crashing head-on with the Associated Press over the issue. The answer, at least according to the search giant, is no.

"Some readers, users and journalists have asked us if the AP's plan is about Google since we host complete AP articles," Alexander Macgillivray, associate general counsel for Products and Intellectual Property for Google, said in an April 7 corporate blog posting. "The answer is that it doesn't appear to pertain to Google since we host those articles in partnership with the AP."

Macgillivray added: "We announced that partnership in 2007 as part of an experiment in hosting articles on our site. In hosting agreements such as this, we pay news agencies and display the entire text of articles, such as [one] from the AP about President Obama's visit to Turkey."

Google and the Associated Press were in dispute as far back as 2006, with the 163-year-old news agency arguing that the search engine "unjustly" used text and photographs in Google News. The two eventually reached the aforementioned settlement, with Google paying an undisclosed sum for the content.

At the time, Google was also being sued by Agence France-Presse for $17.5 million, for copyright infringement. That suit was settled out of court for undisclosed terms in 2007.

When reached for comment by eWEEK, Associated Press Director of Media Relations Paul Colford noted that "the word 'Google' did not come up" in an April 6 speech by Associated Press Chairman Dean Singleton that announced the agency's stricter online policy, referring the reporter to the transcript.

In the transcript, Singleton indeed makes no mention of Google, but calls open hunting season on those reprinting Associated Press content without a license.

"The board also unanimously agreed to work with portals and other partners who legally license our content and who reward the cooperative for its vast newsgathering efforts," Singleton said, "and to seek legal and legislative remedies against those who don't."
Singleton, a self-described "lifelong newspaper man," also seemed to take a swipe at the bloggers who reprint, and comment upon, content produced by reporters.

"A few years ago, AP started to keep a tally of its journalists killed, harassed, beaten, detained or prevented from doing their jobs," he said. "Last year, that number totaled 62. It is not a profession for the fainthearted, or those who work in their pajamas."

While bloggers weren't spared by Singleton, Google seems to have avoided the ire of the Associated Press.