The Associated Press is out to protect its intellectual property. Sadly, it reminds me of the silly things going on at my kids’ grade school.
AP took direct aim at Google and Web 2.0 this week when it announced, in best “Network” style that they’re “mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.”
What they’re mad at hell at are Web sites like Google (The Huffington Post and the Drudge Report among others) that aggregate AP news headlines and send readers to newspaper sites when they click on those links. AP sees this as violating copyright law and AP’s intellectual property. What it really means is that AP wants more money.
So AP is thinking of shutting off access to all news aggregators online and, instead, forcing people to go to it’s own news portal online. They’ll take the money they make on the new portal and spread it around to the publishers.
It sounds like AP doesn’t like losing control with all this new media stuff. That's too bad, because it’s only going to get worse.
Now AP has every right to make money from its news product. It needs to pay journalists and photographers all over the world. It’s interesting that AP’s offline stringer model is perfect for online journalism too, but that, somehow, hasn’t made it into the discussion. Moreover, according to a 2006 report, Google already pays AP for proprietary stories and pictures.
AP’s intellectual constipation comes in to play when it tries to shut down the spread of its news stories rather than encouraging them. The fact that people have lots of ways to get to AP stories on newspaper sites seems a generous strategy that AP should reap benefits from. Instead of looking at new ways of encouraging the spread of those stories, and looking at new, not old, models of monetizing this spread, AP could turn this into a win/win for everyone.
The risk is that online stringer news goes to the CNN type amateur journalists via places like iReport. While there’s a huge value to citizen journalism, society benefits from reading great journalists. You’d think that AP would want to let people read these journalists as much as possible instead of limiting access. It seems like AP is chasing the same doomed model as the record industry did when faced with its own online challenge. AP needs an intellectual ExLax.
It’s the same thing that’s happening with my daughters play at her grade school. The grades 3-5 kids were supposed to put on “Mary Poppins” or “Peter Pan” but it turned out that they couldn’t get the music rights for the Broadway music without paying thousands of dollars. Yes it’s a good thing that artists make money for things they create and don’t allow people to make money from their work without sharing the profit. But this is a school play. Schools don’t make money, and they don’t have a lot of money to spend. Thank god they’re even doing drama at this level!
So the school ditched “Mary Poppins” and is doing something else that doesn’t cost anything. And what does this do for the artists and producers? Well, think of the money they lose when families and friends don’t buy the music and DVDs. More importantly, they miss a chance to spread and imprint this music into every kid’s head (and the families they’re practicing for nightly). That’s an imprint that doesn’t go away. Talk about lifetime value of a customer!
Surely there’s a fairer way to assess the value of ideas. The one size fits all model is simply arcane.
When intellectual constipation gets in the way of intellectual property things just stop. I can’t see how that helps anyone.