Associated Press lawsuits are probably not great for business. Over the years the AP has allowed news outlets to use and modify its content. It is a distributor of news and organizations pay for this service. This content is then talked about, blogged about and out right stolen but until recently the AP did nothing to control the proliferation and modification of its content.
The AP’s new stance is a dangerous one. While it is understandable that the AP is concerned about how their content is used and taken online, this controlling stance will hurt them in the end.
That old saying “ if someone copies you it means they admire you” holds true in new media. Bloggers and users who steal the AP content are in effect giving the organization more online street credibility. Users steal the content because they read it and think it is relevant, interesting, maybe even incredibly wrong and maybe a thousand other things reasons. These users are spreading the AP’s name throughout the web and trying to have a conversation around a subject or article the AP wrote. In an age where newspapers are closing their doors the AP should be flattered that someone is still reading their content and papers are paying to still use their content.
Furthermore, this type of conversation around articles is exactly the type of conversation journalism sets out to create. According to the Society of Professional Journalists the role of a journalist is entwined in the role of the public and democracy. “Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.” Part of democracy is having rigorous public debate around issues of the day.
The AP is treading on a thinly iced lake. As it tries to control its content it risks losing its market base and alienating news outlets. News outlets may start to realize that they could get news content for free from online bloggers around the world. Finally, the AP’s legal battle seems likely to fail because of their failure in the past to regulate content and doctrines such as “fair use.”
Rather than controlling content lawsuit being key to survival of the AP, I would like to suggest that they highlight the lack of understanding by old media model outlets. These lawsuits may be successful in the short term with a good team of lawyers and the right amount of money thrown at it, but the AP may end up with no business to protect.
The AP needs to become a more inclusive organization that provides forums for bloggers and contact successful content stealing users and recruit them. The internet is not going away, the AP should stop acting like it is and embrace Google – the most widely used search engine – as away to distribute content. The AP should look to new media models like the Daily Beast and grist.org for ways to incorporate users and share content.