SAN DIEGO - The Associated Press and the newspaper industry plan an aggressive effort to track down copyright violators on the Internet and try to divert traffic from websites that don't properly license news content, the AP board announced Monday.
The not-for-profit news cooperative also said it will cut fees by $35 million for U.S. newspapers in 2010 -- on top of a $30 million reduction that took effect this year -- and loosen its long-standing requirement for two years' notice to cancel AP service.
The financial moves are part of an overhaul of the AP's policies in the face of extraordinary financial hardship for newspapers. The changes were announced at the AP's annual meeting in San Diego, along with the copyright initiative launched by the AP's board, made up largely of newspaper executives.
"We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under some very misguided, unfounded legal theories," said Dean Singleton, the AP's chairman and the chief executive of newspaper publisher MediaNews Group Inc. "We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it anymore."
Newspapers threaten to bolt
Specifics behind the initiative are still being worked out. One idea under development would be to create a system that can help track whether news content is being legally distributed online. The AP also said it will work with newspapers and broadcasters to direct readers to "landing pages" that could offer news from the AP and its members.
Copyright is an especially thorny issue for the AP and newspapers, which have seen their material spread on the Internet in a cut-and-paste age far beyond their direct control.
The fee reductions are meant to help newspapers deal with another huge challenge -- their finances.
The cuts in the cost of AP service are expected to average just under 20 percent but will vary widely, depending on what content newspapers buy, the AP said.
About 180 newspapers -- 14 percent of the AP's U.S. newspaper membership -- have threatened to leave the AP, including the Star Tribune, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch and newspapers owned by Tribune Co.