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'Mad as hell' news agency declares war on light-fingered sites

That sounds like fighting talk, AP

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News agency the Associated Press (AP) has said it will start taking action against internet publishers who use its material without paying for it or without sharing earnings. The company is adopting new, aggressive policies, it said.

The company said in a statement that one plan is to track the use of AP material, such as news reports, and identify whose use is legal. It said it would take action against those whose use was not permitted.

The new policies were announced at AP's annual meeting.

"We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under some very misguided, unfounded legal theories," said Dean Singleton, AP chairman according to an AP announcement. "We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it any more."

According to the New York Times (NYT), Singleton told the meeting that it would "work with portals and other partners who legally licence our content” and will “seek legal and legislative remedies against those who don’t".

Some news organisations have long resented the use of their material by news aggregators such as Google News. Google has lost legal battles in Belgium against publishers' body Copiepresse.

AP executive Sue Cross told the NYT that the company's aim was not necessarily to stop news aggregators from using material, but to ensure that the most prominent search results or uses of the material are the most authoritative ones rather than sources which took its material without paying for it.

AP has a licensing agreement with Google which allows the search engine giant to publish its stories.

Google has long argued that it only takes the headline and first words of a story and provides a link to the original and so benefits the newspaper or agency behind the story. It has said that anyone who does not want their content to be findable on Google can easily set their website to be ignored by the search engine.

News services are unlikely, though, to want to be ignored by the most popular search engine in the world.

AP has been involved in a number of recent copyright disputes. Earlier this year it won the right to fight a court battle against a rival wire service it accuses of stealing its material. It is not a copyright battle, though, but a dispute centred on a 90-year-old quasi-property right in news called the 'hot news' doctrine.

The Drudge Retort blog was the target of AP legal action last year. The news agency claimed that the blog's use of parts of its stories was copyright infringement. The blog, run by Rogers Cadenhead, published six stories using between 33 and 79 words of the AP reports.

"Linking to news articles with short excerpts is common practice throughout the web, both on individual blogs and on social news sites," Cadenhead told OUT-LAW.COM last year. ""If AP intends to fight this one out, it'll be the case of AP v. Everybody."

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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