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The AP Plans 'News Registry' To Protect Content

The world's oldest and largest news gathering organization aims to fight online theft of its content with digital tracking beacons.

Aware that Facebook's Beacon initiative has turned "beacon" into a synonym for privacy invasion, Seagrave acknowledged that "beacon" is not a great word to describe the system. "It's not the same [as what Facebook did]," she said. "There are no cookies attached. We're not after personal information at all. What we're trying to find out is where the information is being used rather than who is using it."

Seagrave characterized the news registry as a business-to-business system designed to deter large-scale copying of AP content rather than individual bloggers who cut and paste a few too many paragraphs from an AP story. "It's not aimed at people who use part of stories periodically," she said. "It's aimed at being affirmative about how we allow our content to be used."

"The problem we have now is that our stories are getting scraped and reused in large quantities by aggregators who haven't paid any license fees," she said.

Seagrave said that determined content copiers could probably find ways around the system, but that the AP has additional methods to protect its rights. The news registry, she suggested, was more about clarifying the AP's expectations rather than delivering a technical silver bullet against copyright infringement.

Litigation is one such additional method. Earlier this month, the AP announced that it had settled its copyright infringement lawsuit against AHN Media for an undisclosed sum. As part of the settlement, AHN acknowledged using the AP's content without consent.

"We believe that we need to protect our content and take affirmative steps to protect our intellectual property interest," she said. "In any legal or business setting, having taken steps to say how content can and should be used is a point in your favor."

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