The Associated Press announced it will work with web portals and other digital partners to track publishers that use its content without a license, and pursue legal action against them, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Much of the AP's content is unpaid for, as it is collected by news aggregators that carefully dodge AP licensing fees.
Major internet portals such as Google and Yahoo do pay the AP for use of its content, however. They claim to also be in full compliance with copyright laws by publishing only part of each story and directing users who want the full story to the publisher's website.
But pure traffic generation isn't enough to pay for the content, said Brian Tierney, chief executive of the company that publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.
Many newspaper publishers feel they miss out on possible earnings from their content because the portals' news pages on which those few lines appear do carry ads, but don't receive any portion of that revenue. As many of the AP stories that are fed into those portals are not written by the AP staff, but rather their member newspapers' writers, they feel they can be paid for that proprietary content.
Publishers can easily prevent their websites from appearing in Google's search results, responded Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker, who pointed out that search engines are of real benefit to newspapers, driving valuable traffic and connecting them with new readers. (Read Google's defensive stance.)
The AP first declared war against bloggers that use long segments of its content in June 2008. Later it agreed to meet with blogging coalitions to form amenable guidelines between itself and online journalists; no such guidelines were ever developed.
Newspaper companies have had steep revenue declines as more people turn to the web for news and advertising revenue cannot keep up with costs. To make membership more accessible to struggling newspapers, the AP will reduce annual membership rates for its 1,400 members. Total membership fees are expected to go down $35 million, the news provider said.