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I for one welcome AP’s war on links and fair use

With AP declaring all out war on links and fair use, the chorus of dissent has been unsurprisingly negative in return. Everyone from bloggers through to senior media journlists have called the move stupid through to bat-shit crazy.

I for one welcome welcome AP’s war on links and fair use. Indeed as a small media publisher I’m disappointed that it didn’t start last year, or even the year before. This AP declaration war on links and fair use is the end game, and the results will be brilliant.

Linking

When AP tries to impose a license fee on linking to its content, people will stop linking to AP content. Not just some sites, but 99% of sites. There may be no official boycott as such, but likewise most won’t be interested in battling AP in court. The result will be a big drop in traffic to AP content as the link juice it previously had disappears, juice that also helps their search engine rankings.

But it could be better again, because big players like Google won’t stand for paying for the right to link, so AP content may disappear altogether from most search engines as well.

The net result is that papers who rely on AP content online will see their traffic and online revenue plummet at a time that many of them are struggling to survive as it is. The drop in newspaper advertising may have driven many of them to the point of extinction, but AP will help push them off the final cliff.

Fair Use

The attack by AP on fair use, a doctrine established by the newspaper industry itself will prove disastrous to non-AP and AP member newspapers alike. Newspapers rely on fair use to cover stories every day, regularly quoting for competitors as well. If AP starts to crack down on fair use, they’ll have to go after newspapers as well as new media…and that means costly lawsuits that again help kill newspapers.

Legal

Not everyone will allow AP to ignore existing copyright law and will continue to link or use fair use in reporting, and back up their rights with lawyers. Then throw in advocacy groups like the EFF and ACLU as well, all who will attack AP with their lawyers. AP will find itself tied up in multi-million dollar lawsuits that it may never be able to win.

AP using its muscle by ignoring existing laws may also see intervention from Government. Strong arm tactics that blatantly ignore law could see charges placed against AP on grounds such as racketeering.

Strengthening competitors

Newspapers and larger online outlets still need their wire content, and with AP content all but shunned online, competitors to AP become far more attractive. Reuters (which isn’t big in the US) and CNN are both in the process of increasing or rolling out wire services in the United States, services which are currently offered at far more competitive rates. Some media outlets have already quit AP, and with AP content offering less value online due to AP’s new policies, even more will follow.

AP will then find itself in an interesting position: with less members, AP has less income while at the same time spending increasingly large amounts on lawsuits as part of its war on links and fair use. If AP starts to lose money, it will have to increase charges, which will in turn drive more members to competing services…and around and around we go until AP is a shell of its former self and the wire service headlines on Google News came out of Reuters or CNN. Eventually AP dies.

Conclusion

It probably goes without saying that the AP is making a bat-shit crazy mistake here, but it’s bat-shit crazy for itself, not everyone else. AP is not the font of knowledge, nor does it exist in a vacuum in which there are no alternatives. Combine what AP is doing here and talk that many newspapers will start charging next year for access to content, and you’ve got the perfect storm for a dying industry that will rapidly see its numbers decline until few are left trading. As a small publisher I’m very much looking forward to the day.

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