Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Publishers Fight Back

Some of you will be aware that Google lost a copyright case in Belgium last week that ruled that Google infringed on German and French newspapers copyright by reproducing article snippets in search results. Publishers everywhere will probably feel somewhat emboldened by this ruling. Google on the other hand were very sulky in their response; they initially refused to place the ruling on their web site as required by the court. I haven't heard that they plan to appeal but I would think this is not the last we will hear of this.

This story was interesting to me but not particularly earth shattering until I read this report in Silicon.com which discussed a publishing industry initiative named the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP). Once implemented a search engine will be able to recognize the content owners' access and permissions use rights. Rather than shut down their sites publishers will be able to manage the indexing that search engines conduct and tell search engines under what terms the content may be used. The World Association of Newspapers produced a briefing paper on this initiative.

Gavin O'Reilly the current President of the WAN had the following comment: "Importantly, ACAP is an enabling solution that will ensure that published content will be accessible to all and will encourage publication of increasing amounts of high-value content online," he said. "This industry-wide initiative positively answers the growing frustration of publishers, who continue to invest heavily in generating content for online dissemination and use."

Clearly, the briefing paper makes clear that the content owners are not looking to restrict the use of their content but I wonder how this fits with the recent announcement by some major US newspaper publishers. Perhaps there is no impact and this merely 'automates' what these newspapers have set out in their legal agreements with Google.

The WAN are not the only participants in this initiative and the International Publishers Association are also sponsors. This is the international association that most national publishing associations are members (AAP, PA, APA). Jens Bammel, the director of IPA is quoted in the Silicon article in support of the initiative. Here is another article that appeared in CNET.

This initiative does represent an interesting aspect since not only are companies within these associations cooperating and funding this program but associations across industries are cooperating. Interesting what is possible when the stakes are so high: publishers and content owners recognising that their content is being used without permission to create value for an entity that had no hand in its creation. But before you rush to judge that statement, we will also continue to see proven the reality that content owners need the search engines to enable content users to find and use the content.

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