AP Preparing New Copyright Management System

The new system will register key identifying information about each piece of content that AP distributes as well as the terms of use of that content into a storage database. It also will employ a built-in "beacon" to notify AP and other publishers about how the content is used.

The Associated Press, for decades one of the world's vital news content producers, is developing a new copyright management method that it believes will better protect its news articles, photos and videos from unauthorized use on the Internet.
The venerable news cooperative said July 23 that it is now testing a microformat that will include metadata and rights information in a content wrapper that will be added to each news item as it is pushed out to the AP network.
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 into a storage database. It also will employ a built-in piece of spyware AP calls a "beacon" to notify AP and licensed publishers about how the content is used.
"When we send up a story, we know where it's being consumed on various Websites," Jane Seagrave, AP's senior vice president for global product development, told eWEEK. "The problem we have right now is that, I'm sure you know, is that we license a lot of our content to third parties. That's fine; we get a fee for it.
"Increasingly, however, we're seeing a lot of people misappropriate the content, scraping it from licensed sites and moving it in kind of a wholesale fashion onto aggregated sites. We've totally lost touch with it."
Attaching a marker on each AP article is not a cookie, nor it is digital rights management, Seagrave said.
"It's copyright management information," Seagrave said. "It's a little bit of a spin on this. What we're trying to do is empower usage of our content, but in a way that we have some knowledge about it, without interfering with people's privacy.
"The idea is to come up with a mechanism where we can say, 'OK, here's our content, we're sending it out with the following rights attached to it,' then we'll know that people are using it inside or outside their license."
The new microformat for news was developed by AP and endorsed earlier this month by the Media Standards Trust, a London-based nonprofit research and development organization that has asked news organizations to adopt consistent news formats for online content.
The microformat will enable publishers to specify how their content is to be used online and also supply the information needed to track and monitor its usage.
The registry also will enable content owners and publishers to obtain detailed metrics on content consumption, payment services and enforcement support. In addition, it will support a variety of payment models.
AP Sees System as Potential 'Digital Stylebook'
For nearly a century, AP has been regarded as a standards creator and initiator for the journalism business. For example, its "Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual" has long been a standard tool on the desks of editors and reporters.
"In some ways, we think of this [new copyright management system] as a 'digital stylebook,'" Seagrave said. "It's a way of asserting a common way of describing rights and information that will be available to whoever wants it. We're going to use it ourselves, but we're also going to make it available to others."
Thus, if it is successful, the new copyright control system could serve as a model for other types of digital content, including music and movies.
The AP registry and is not aimed at being "punitive as much as it is empowering," Seagrave said.
"Right now, the only way you can use AP content officially, because we don't have a Website, is to negotiate a contract or get licensed because you're a customer or newspaper, or whatever," Seagrave said. "We have feeds, etc., and it's fairly time-consuming [to get it up and running]. We're trying to empower people to use our content but do it in a way that's much more efficient and enable us to keep track of the use in an efficient way."
AP and its co-op partners "spend a heck of a lot of money covering the news, and we need the people who are using it to pay for it. The people who take it on first iteration are paying for it, but then we have this whole secondary ecosystem that's feeding off it. That's what we're after," Seagrave said.
How will AP handle fair usage, such as a blogger or journalist using a headline or one or two paragraphs of an AP story with a link back to the original?
"We haven't set hard and fast rules about how much of an AP story they can use," Seagrave said. "The intent isn't to prevent occasional use of our content [such as in teasers with links to the original story]; the intent is to stop the wholesale misappropriation [of news content].
"There's a road to travel in how we get supplied [for appropriate payment]. But the point here is not to be punitive but to enable use in an organized way. That's really what we're after," Seagrave said.
Starting in November 2009, the registry will cover all AP text content online and be extended to AP member content in early 2010. Eventually, it will be expanded to cover photos and video, AP said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...