Google and the Associated Press have reached an agreement allowing Google to continue using AP content. But whether this is a long-term agreement replacing the one that expired last month is unclear. And despite the agreement, AP stories won’t be hosted by Google News any time soon, it seems. Yahoo’s also struck a new deal with the AP.
Here’s the statement I received from Google about the AP deal:
We have a licensing agreement with the Associated Press that permits us to host its content on Google properties such as Google News. Right now we are not adding new hosted content from the AP. The licensing agreement is the subject of ongoing discussion so we won’t be commenting further at this time.
Google and the AP signed an original deal back in 2006 that:
- Stopped the AP with proceeding with a lawsuit against Google that would have claimed that listing AP stories hosted by AP members violated copyright laws
- Allowed Google to host stories from the AP on Google’s own web site
- Allowed Google to use AP content for purposes that Google said went “beyond” fair use
Google News Now Hosting Wire Stories & Promises Better Variety In Results covers more about what happened back then when the agreement was struck and the issues involved. Since that time, especially over last year, the AP has been very vocal in saying it wanted a much better deal from Google along with suggestions that despite its existing agreement, Google was somehow still violating copyright.
Josh Cohen Of Google News On Paywalls, Partnerships & Working With Publishers from November has more background on those allegations and rumblings. Since then, industry watchers have been wondering what would happen as the countdown to the deal’s expiration approached.
Neither Google nor the AP has said exactly when the deal was set to expire. All we’ve known is that it was sometime in late January. February’s since arrived, and since there was no announcement of a deal, it was clear something was up. So I checked with Google and got the statement above.
Where’s AP In Google News? Apparently In Limbo, As Contract Running Out covers how Google has not been carrying AP stories on its own web site since late December. This was apparently done so that if a new deal wasn’t reached, readers wouldn’t be confused about a story they found one day suddenly disappearing the next.
The statement says that Google still has the right to host AP stories on its site but also makes clear that it will not be doing so. Why not? Almost certainly because this is a short term deal designed to buy both sides more time — quite possibly, a short term extension of the preexisting deal. If it’s short term, then Google still might not want to put up stories that could disappear when the short term extension expires.
Not hosting AP’s content also perhaps gave Google a negotiating tactic. It’s now been over a month since Google’s not hosted AP stories, and there’s been no indication that Google News users have complained en masse about them being gone nor that Google News is somehow less relevant without them. In short, Google’s in a strong position of demonstrating to the AP that it doesn’t need its content.
Of course, AP content still resides within Google News another way, available through AP members that carry stories. For example, a search for ap yahoo on Google News brings up this AP story about the AP-Yahoo deal as carried by ABC News:
If a deal isn’t struck, the AP might go back to a lawsuit threat over these types of listings. And Google might decide to stand its ground and declare such usage to be fair use, as it has long maintained. We’ll keep watching.
As for the Yahoo deal, according to the aforementioned AP article, no financial terms were disclosed, nor was the duration of the contact. According to an anonymous source cited, Yahoo does not get any type of advantage over other outlets, something that the AP had suggested might happen in hopes of getting a better deal from one of the major search portals.
For further coverage that’s sure to develop today, see Techmeme.
Postscript: I was asked in the comments below and also by someone else via email why this is a new deal since Google gave a similar statement a month ago. To reiterate what I said above, I think this is likely an extension of the original agreement. That’s why the statements are probably similar — because if it IS an extension of the original agreement, then the basic rights allowed under that haven’t changed. But the original agreement was to have expired at the end of January. Google has confirmed that with me. So something was reached to allow Google to continue forward with AP content — either a completely new deal or a short term extension of the old one. Since the AP isn’t talking about a new deal as it is with Yahoo, I think the safe assumption is a short term extension.
Postscript 2: Reading further about the Yahoo deal, I came across this in the AP story about it:
Besides pumping Internet companies for more money, the AP also wants more cooperation in its effort to ensure its material isn’t appearing on unauthorized sites. As part of its crackdown, the AP is testing a system that tracks where its stories are being read. Yahoo pledged to enforce “the strictest standards” to protect the AP’s content.
I’ve tried for some time to get the AP to explain more about the details of this tracking system it plans but had no luck. I’m optimistic that might change in the future. In the meantime, that system seems to be based on getting AP partners to install tracking code on their articles, so the AP can monitor authorized usage.
As for unauthorized usage, well, unauthorized users aren’t likely to install AP tracking codes. Instead, the AP is likely to do keyword-based searches to find web pages that it considers to be using AP content beyond that which is allowed by fair use. And since the AP has suggested that even quoting an AP headline might be beyond fair use, almost anything citing an AP story might be deemed unauthorized.
That leads back to Yahoo’s statement. The AP has lobbied for the idea that search engines (Google in particular) should give AP content a ranking boost over other content (see Sorry, Tom Curley: Don’t Expect A Google Ranking Boost For The AP). So is the AP getting that from Yahoo in this deal, a ranking boost or some pledge that Yahoo will wipe out anything the AP deems unauthorized content?
I put that in a question to Yahoo, asking the company:
Can you shed any more light on what this means. I mean, is Yahoo not trying to protect AP’s content already? What exactly new is going to happen?
In response, I was sent this statement:
Yahoo! is focused on providing consumers with the most comprehensive and personally relevant content experiences available on the Web. AP is an important part of that effort and remains one of Yahoo!’s most valued content partners. We look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with AP for many years to come.Deal Message Points:
- AP will continue to provide Yahoo! with news content globally and across desktop and mobile platforms.
- Yahoo! will continue to enforce the strictest standards for AP’s licensed content.
- Yahoo! and AP will continue to explore innovative new ways to leverage the power of social and local media, AP’s world-class reporting and Yahoo!’s engaged audience to deliver the best content experiences on the Web.
I bolded the key part. “Continue to enforce” suggests that there is nothing new here. Meanwhile, “strictest standards” means nothing at all. Whose standards? And standards for use on Yahoo or off?
In reality, I think the AP isn’t looking for a ranking boost but rather wants to ensure that if there’s an AP story that makes it into the top results at any search engine, that the story is hosted by the AP itself or an authorized AP member. That’s reasonable. As I wrote before:
The AP seems to want to ensure that if one of its stories is managing to get into the top results, that the AP itself gets the spot, not a submission of the story over at Digg, not a summary of the story over at the Huffington Post, not a copy of its story on one of its many member publications…
That’s actually more reasonable. In fact, SEOs have long been lobbying Google for ways to ensure that original source documents show up ahead of pages that simply reference those documents with little value-add (IE: news flash AP, this isn’t just your problem, and people have been actively working long before you to help solve it). One solution that came this year was the canonical tag, which is about to expand with cross-domain support.
Another solution remains with the AP itself. By not having its own news portal, by having stories that can disappear after 30 days, it constantly shoots itself in the foot to gain the links that would let it naturally rank better in Google.
As far as I can read between the few lines of the Yahoo statement, the AP is NOT getting a guarantee of this from Yahoo. Indeed, with Yahoo set to sell off its search technology to Microsoft, it’s likely would become even harder for Yahoo to make such a guarantee.