All the recent grunting and saber-rattling about stopping those evil Internet sites from stealing content strikes me as bizarre. Who are these bad actors?
Much of the reporting out of San Diego this week conflates AP's issues with those of the newspaper industry -- they are not the same -- and scapegoats Google and HuffingtonPost.com, both of which pay to license Associated Press content. Others mumble on about "portals," but it's important to know that Yahoo, America Online and others have been paying for AP content for years. My home broadband provider even licenses AP content.
The decision to sell AP content to portals was made years ago and approved by the big newspaper companies that dominate AP's board. AP was told: Go for the money and keep our assessments down. AP did, and now non-newspaper content sales account for the majority of AP's income. AP has a legitimate interest in pursuing blatant content thieves, but portals, Google, and the Huffington Post are not the problem.
As for newspapers, blatant content thievery might be offensive and irritating, but is it really a significant financial issue?
And besides, this has been going on for years. In the 1970s and 80s, I worked as a copy editor at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, translating stories from cop reporters into English. At the end of my shift I'd drive home and tune my car radio to CBS-owed KMOX Radio, "The Voice of St. Louis." The overnight host was John McCormick, the deep-voiced "man who walks and talks at midnight."
And every night I'd hear McCormick reading news stories that word for word matched something I'd typed only hours before.
He'd close his newscast: "So now you know, and via radio."
The Globe-Democrat is gone now, one of many city dailies that collapsed in those days. It wasn't KMOX Radio that did it. Let's not distract ourselves from the real issues.