AP board touts new effort to fight Web news piracy

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Associated Press and the newspaper industry plan an aggressive effort to track down copyright violators on the Internet and try to divert traffic from Web sites that don’t properly license news content, the AP board announced Monday.

The not-for-profit news cooperative also said it will cut fees by $35 million for U.S. newspapers in 2010 — on top of a $30 million reduction that took effect this year — and loosen its long-standing requirement for two years’ notice to cancel AP service.

The financial moves are part of an overhaul of the AP’s policies in the face of extraordinary financial hardship for newspapers. The changes were announced at the AP’s annual meeting in San Diego, along with the copyright initiative launched by the AP’s board, which is made up largely of newspaper executives.

“We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories,” said Dean Singleton, the AP’s chairman and the chief executive of newspaper publisher MediaNews Group Inc. “We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it any more.”

Specifics behind the initiative are still being worked out. One idea under development would be to create a system that can help track whether news content is being legally distributed online. The AP also said it will work with newspapers and broadcasters to direct readers to “landing pages” that could offer news from the AP and its members, rather than unauthorized sites.

Sue Cross, an AP senior vice president, emphasized that the initiative could take many forms. “It’s a significant move for the industry to work together,” she said.

Copyright is an especially thorny issue for the AP and newspapers, which have seen their material spread on the Internet far beyond their direct control in a cut-and-paste age.

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