By Adam K., Andrea B., and Charles B.
NewsRight, a spinoff of the Associated Press joined by 28 other major U.S. news organizations, is an online news registry and licensing corporation.[i] Currently tracking content from 841 newspaper sites,[ii] and with $30 million already invested,[iii] NewsRight licenses and monitors news content and other intellectual property in the digital world. NewsRight uses this information to “bridge the [revenue] gap” that content producers experience online.[iv]
Since the mid-2000s, as the Internet forced a shift in traditional publishing paradigms, news media has seen consistent declines in revenue.[v] Not only are readers able to copy and share articles quickly and easily, but also commercial entities have found significant profit in aggregating news stories from a variety of publishers in one simple presentation. The Huffington Post is one such successful example that integrates copyrighted content with its own original content.[vi] Online platforms such as blogs are readily able to take copyrighted content, whether news stories, magazine articles, or pictures, and then republish that content on their own site without paying a license or crediting the original producer. Readers then opt to visit the blogs instead of the content producers websites, thereby depriving the content producers of the full return on their investment.
The founding CEO, and former ABC News president, of NewsRight has publically stated, “we’re not a litigation shop.”[vii] The primary purpose of the company is to help correct the current imbalance in the news content marketplace by brokering relationships between publishers and reproducers.[viii]
Like its many members, NewsRight sees this practice as siphoning revenue away from those who have to invest to create such content. Many news-aggregating services are infringing original news content and commercially benefiting.[ix] These aggregators do not incur the cost of hiring reporters to make this content yet see increased readership and revenue, while traditional publishers have seen declining revenue and readership.[x] Enter NewsRight.
The service begins by cataloguing content that publishers submit, and then tracking the content over the Internet – even when only a small piece is copied and pasted.[xi] This information is used by NewsRight to find unauthorized websites, blogs, aggregators, and newsgathering services using the content and turn them into paying customers by offering license agreements. Because of the newspaper powerhouses backing it, NewsRight could offer aggregators one-stop licensing across hundreds of sites.
Nonetheless, NewsRight has its fair share of critics who see this consolidation of enforcement power as a threat to non-infringing fair use online.[xii] There are some cases where legal enforcement rights are obvious. For example, commercial aggregators: companies that profit by culling various news reports reproducing and delivering content without authorization. Critics fear that once NewsRight runs out of commercial targets like Meltwater (who received their summons just a few weeks ago),[xiii] they will turn towards social aggregators whose use is more within the bounds of fair use but may not be able to afford the legal costs associated with any conflict.[xiv] This result could potentially to chill free speech and legitimate fair use of copyrighted material online.[xv]