European publishers want a law to control online news access

A group of European publishers has signed a declaration that aims to see its draconian Automated Content Access Protocol forced on search engines and news aggregators by legislation.

The desertion of advertising dollars from the ailing print media industry has left publishers searching for more of the one thing that the Internet seems intent on denying them: paying customers. Print publications in the US and Europe are scrambling to find ways to charge somebody—readers, link aggregators, blogs, competitors—for deriving any sort of benefit from the reporting they're doing.

A group of European publishers has recently released a declaration of principles, the "Hamburg Declaration," that amounts to a long-winded rant against the Internet for stealing their news. They want the government to step in and fix the situation by force of law.

Most of the statements in the relatively short declaration, which will surely take its place among thousands of other European declarations on intellectual property and other matters that have come out over the past few years, hinge on the idea that "universal access to news" does not equal "free." In this respect, the publishers want to maintain the democratic ideal of a "fourth estate" that provides news to an informed citizenry, while simultaneously restricting access to that news to those who can pay for it directly.

What sets this declaration apart from the other Hamburg declarations out there, or from the various Geneva declarations or Berlin declarations, is that this one is intended to give the publishers' favorite solution to the news-stealing problem, the Automated Content Access Protocol, the force of law.

ACAP is a metadata standard that's a bit like robots.txt—but on illegal steroids that cause anger management issues and can precipitate bouts of violence and heart problems. The standard aims to dictate how search engines and other aggregators handle a publisher's content by defining usage rights that third parties are supposed to respect (more on this below). But because search engines have rejected ACAP in favor of their own news metadata solutions, the publishers are asking the EU to step in and mandate it outright:

"We need search engines to recognize ACAP as a step towards acknowledging that content providers have the right to decide what happens to their content and on what terms," said the Chairman of ACAP, Gavin O'Reilly. "The European Commission and other legislators call on our industry constantly to come up with solutions—here we have one and we call upon the regulators to back it up".

Source: ars technica

Tags: Internet

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