Caveat Linker: Let the Linker Beware

The AP recently unleashed an initiative that could take legal and legislative action against search engines, news aggregators, and websites that it feels misappropriate AP content. The AP, which represents thousands of news organizations, is trying to suss out where and how its content is being used and, in the case of others profiting from that content, snag a cut of its own. “We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories,” said AP Chairman Dean Singleton. Misguided meaning the “fair use” doctrine that is generally employed so that sites like Google News can aggregate headlines and snippets of articles with accompanying links.

The AP said it will develop an online tracking system to help it hunt down offenders. The issue, however, is not just profit. When news sites provide links to news stories, they don’t always point to the most authoritative, breaking sources but rather to sites that have paraphrased the news. To address this problem, the AP has said that it will create new search pages that help users find the right sources for the news they seek.

If the AP gets its way, it could also make attribution in the form of naming the original source or the widespread practice of linking to the original source in rewritten content illegal without a license agreement from the copyright holder. Obviously, this has the potential to create tremendous shifts in the fundamental ways in which content is created and distributed online. We’ll be following this story very closely as it develops…

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