AP Launches Online News Licensing Venture

The Associated Press and other news organizations are launching a new ASCAP-like venture called NewsRight intended to give aggregators a one-stop-shop to acquire licenses to the members’ news content, according to a report by Poynter.

Though NewsRight may be convenient for aggregators looking to pay for licenses, the obvious problem is that many aggregators have no interest in doing so.  While those who republish entire news stories may be liable for copyright violations, many only publish links, in some cases accompanied by a short paraphrase or excerpt from the story.  Such practices often may qualify as “fair use” or “de minimis” (too insignificant to be legally actionable) use of copyrighted content.

The Poynter story optimistically suggests that “There are any number of institutions and businesses willing to avoid legal hassles or an appearance of unethical practice by paying when asked.”  Possibly, but it seems that most aggregators believe they are doing the traditional media a favor by steering eyeballs to those sites.  After years of news media treating their content as “free stuff” on the web, the paradigm may be resistant to change, whether through moral suasion, litigation or resort to various types of paywalls.

NewsRight also will reportedly offer analytic data to news outlets regarding the aggregated stories.

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