AP Wants Information to Be Caged

It’s really hard for me to understand how the AP’s new initiative is supposed to work. Their concern, they say, is that “a significant amount of AP news and news from AP members is used without permission or fair compensation.” This appears under a banner about “Protecting AP’s Intellectual Property.” But neither AP nor anyone else has intellectual property in news. Factual information isn’t subject to copyright.

Ellen Barry and The New York Times have some intellectual property in the specifics of her April 11 article “Protests Wane in Moldova as Vote Recount Is Announced” but the fact that protests are waning in Moldova as vote recount is announced is just out and about. Obviously, this has always posed something of a problem for the news business. Neither Barry nor the NYT can capture the full value of the reporting about Moldova. But this is genuinely intrinsic to the whole process. The point of having a reporter write about what’s happening in Moldova is for people to learn about what’s happening in Moldova. Those people, once they know, are free to pass that information on, verbally or in writing. The mitigating factor here is that producers of news content are also able to take advantage of this dynamic. Barry writes, for example, that “The authorities, as well as local and Russian news media, have cast the protests as an attempt to violently overthrow the government.”

Thus news has been taken from Moldovan and Russian circles and recycled to NYT readers without anyone paying a fee. How could this be stopped? Why would you want it to?