By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer
The Associated Press will intensify its efforts to protect its
copyrights on the Web and possibly uncover new sources of revenue by
working with a Silicon Valley startup that's trying to help the media
gain more control over digital content.
Under an agreement to be announced Thursday, the AP will subscribe to
a service developed by Attributor Corp. to track how its stories are
distributed across thousands of Web sites. The monitoring tools
eventually will be expanded so the news cooperative will be able to
keep tabs on the use of its photos and videos on the Internet, too.
Although precise terms aren't being disclosed, the AP's fees will
depend largely on how heavily it relies on Attributor's service.
With the deal, the AP becomes Attributor's first major customer. The
Redwood City-based startup, led by former Yahoo Inc. executive Jim
Brock, has spent the past 18 months developing a system for
determining whether Web content is authorized or unlicensed.
Attributor so far has indexed more than 13 billion Web pages,
providing the AP with a potentially powerful tool for better
understanding how its content is being consumed online and,
ultimately, detect copyright violations, said Srinandan Kasi, the news
cooperative's general counsel.
"What we are trying to say is that if someone wants to use our news,
they have to pay for it," Kasi said in an interview.
Rather than trying to scan all the material that AP produces each day,
Attributor initially will focus on a few hundred stories likely to
attract a lot of readers. Web sites that are updated frequently will
be tracked more intensively. The AP can log in to Attributor's service
to track usage and flag potential copyright violations.
Protecting copyrights is becoming increasingly important to
long-established media like the 161-year-old AP as people spend more
time on the Web instead of reading newspapers, watching television or
listening to the radio.
While many Web publishers are paying for content or working out other
licensing agreements, copyright disputes continue to crop up on the
Internet -- vexing media executives already trying to cope with eroding
revenue as more advertisers shift their spending to the Web.
Some of the online advertising appears to be flowing to Web sites that
include copyrighted material without proper authorization.
The not-for-profit AP has been affected by the trend because it relies
on fees from its member newspapers and other commercial media sources
for much of its revenue. The market conditions prompted the AP to
freeze its basic rates for newspaper and broadcast members this year
and keep them at the same levels again next year.
Boosted by more online income, the AP's revenue last year rose nearly
4 percent to $679.8 million. But the cooperative's net income plunged
28.5 percent to $13.3 million.
The AP doesn't intend to take a litigious approach in its enforcement
of its copyrights and instead will try to negotiate licensing
agreements consistent with its mission of keeping the public informed,
Attributor's monitoring tools also could help AP's management get a
better handle on what kinds of stories attract the most online traffic
-- knowledge that Kasi said could be used to develop more creative
approaches that generate more revenue.
The AP's patronage could open more doors in the media for Attributor.
The startup is already testing its service with about a dozen other
undisclosed companies, said Brock, who hopes the AP proves the
effectiveness of the service.
"It's a very important feedback loop from one of the most important
content producers in the world," Brock said.
Privately held Attributor has raised more than $10 million so far from
a list of investors that includes five venture capital firms: Sigma
Partners, Selby Venture Partners, Draper Richards, First Round Capital
and Amicus Capital.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
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