AP takes aim at Web sites over unlicensed news content

AP plans legal action as its chairman says he's "mad as hell" about the theft of news content

The Associated Press (AP), one of the world's largest news providers, plans to take legal action against Web portals and other sites that use its content without paying for a license, the organization said Monday.

The announcement comes amid tough times for the news industry, which has been hurt by the loss of advertising revenue to the Internet. The AP also blamed the theft of news content for some of the news industry's misfortune, one reason it will go after Internet sites the fail to pay for licenses.

"We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories," said Dean Singleton, chairman of the AP, in a speech on Monday.

"We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it any more," he added.

Hundreds of newspapers face closure within the next few years, many in the U.S.

The Tribune Co., for example, owner of the newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, Baltimore Sun and dozens of TV stations, filed for bankruptcy in December. Last month, McClatchy, the third largest media company in the U.S. and owner of the Miami Herald and Kansas City Star, announced another restructuring plan that will further reduce staff by 1,600 people this year.

Journalists at the bankrupt Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sunday launched a Web site to save their newspaper.

The AP plans to develop a system to track online content to make sure it's being used legally. It will also set up new search engine pages that point users to "the most authoritative sources of breaking news," it said in a statement.

"AP and its member newspapers and broadcast associate members are the source of most of the news content being created in the world today," said Singleton. "We must be paid fully and fairly."

To help member news organizations through the recession, the AP announced further price reductions for its photos, video and written news content.

AP subscribers will see $30 million in savings in 2009 and another $35 million in savings in 2010 from reductions in fees. The AP has set up new plans for members to choose from, that offer a variety of discounts and packages including national and local news as well as international events.

In the U.S., the reductions will reduce its revenues from U.S. newspapers by around a third between 2008 and 2010, AP said in a statement.

The AP, a non-profit news organization, was founded by a group of U.S. newspapers in 1846 to provide news coverage. Today, the AP serves news organizations around the world from 243 bureaus in 97 countries, offering stories, videos and photos of news events.

Changes in subscriber plans as well as revenue losses from U.S. newspapers, will reduce AP revenue from U.S. newspapers to about $135 million in 2010, about 20% of AP's total revenue, and down from $210 million last year.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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