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Google & AP Extend Long-Term Content Deal

After months of being without a long-term content deal, Google and the Associated Press have finally renewed their vows. Google will continue to host AP stories on Google News and have access to AP’s news feeds without fear that the AP will make legal claims against the company. From the announcement:

We’ve extended our existing licensing agreement with the Associated Press that permits us to host its content on Google properties such as Google News. We look forward to future collaborations, including on ways Google and AP can work together to create a better user experience and new revenue opportunities.

A source familiar with the deal tells me the new deal isn’t substantially different from the original deal Google stuck with the AP in 2006. That deal came about after the AP made threats that it might sue Google, alleging copyright violations over how Google listed its stories. Google disagreed with those allegations. Indeed, the deal Google ultimately agreed to was specifically for uses that Google considered going beyond fair use — but the deal also conveniently made the AP threats go away.

The threats returned in 2009, as the AP’s contract with Google entered its last year. AP ramped up the rhetoric against Google’s usage, suggesting that the old deal wasn’t good enough and introducing the possibility of giving its content faster to players willing to pay more, such as Bing.

Bing didn’t bite. Neither did Google. In fact, the contract was allowed to quietly expire, and AP’s content was removed from Google for over a month, and Google users didn’t seem to care. Eventually, the two companies stuck a short term deal that put AP content back in Google.

My assumption is that the AP learned a lesson from this. Google News was clearly able to operate just fine without AP’s content, so any ideas of a major new revenue deal from Google was unlikely. Google didn’t need it.

But then again, AP content was still showing up in regular Google searches. AP content was also showing up via AP partners that the AP is unable to keep in control (those partners may not block Google as the AP might like). Google wasn’t really “AP-less.” And the AP potentially could have still made legal noise about copyright violations.

But in the end, they’ve decided to get along. That keeps the AP among the 11 licensed news partnerships that Google maintains. The full list:

  • AP
  • AFP
  • UK Press Association
  • Canadian Press
  • EFE
  • Lusa
  • Keystone
  • APA
  • PAP
  • MTI
  • ANA

Some background on the lead-up to today’s deal.

August 2006: News Of Google & AP Deal Emerges

The deal with Google and the AP was never formally announced but rather leaked out and was then confirmed. It followed after AP threats of a lawsuit that got more muted as the deal was apparently being made.

Unlike the AP, the AFP actually sued Google. The case was settled with Google cutting a deal for “new” uses of content. AFP & Google Settle Over Google News Copyright Case has background on both the AFP and AP situations.

August 2007: Google Begins Hosting Wire Stories

Google begins hosting content from major wire services, something allowed by several deals. Google has said that in the case of the AP, Google didn’t actually want to host the content. It was the AP that wanted this, since the AP isn’t in the business of having a consumer-facing news site.

May 2009: AP Ramps Up Rhetoric Against Google

AP CEO Tom Curley threatens to take his content out of Google. Meanwhile, Google strikes back, putting a value on the deal for the first time: a “multi-million deal” says Google CEO Eric Schmidt. For more, see Sorry, Tom Curley: Don’t Expect A Google Ranking Boost For The AP.

October 2009: AP Suggests Playing Google Off Bing

Curley says that Microsoft and Google are at “war,” an “enviable” moment for content producers seeking opportunities — and that any deal he cut would provide “real time metrics” and AP’s content would be pointed at over those who might use it (or apparently cite it) plus support AP’s proposed tracking and rights system. For more, see: What The Associated Press is saying to Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

Today’s deal with Google makes mention of none of this. In fact, a source familiar with the deal tells me there’s nothing in the contract about providing real time metrics or supporting AP’s tracking system, though AP will get some aggregate data about how those on Google’s sites interact with its content.

The AP tracking system itself still doesn’t appear to be fully up. It’s hard for me to even report much about it, because the AP has consistently refused to answer my questions about it.

Meanwhile, the AP appears to have backed away from the previous ACAP system it has suggested was a solution for publishers concerned about Google & search engines. For more on ACAP, see Head-To-Head: ACAP Versus Robots.txt For Controlling Search Engines.

January 2010: AP Stories Dropped From Google News

AP stories disappear from Google News. No major complaints emerge.

February 2010: AP Stories Back In Google News

AP stories return to Google News after being gone for over a month, thanks to a short term deal.

August 2010: AP & Google Renew Deal

That’s today’s news, a new deal with few details revealed, but likely to be multi-year and would multiple millions of dollars.

Further Related Reading

Last November, I conducted an in-depth interview with Google News chief Josh Cohan on how his service makes use of the AP’s content, among other issues. See the article below for what the prior AP-Google was supposed to allow, what it did and didn’t actually do, plus much more:

I have sympathy that the AP might get frustrated discovering that Google may link to people who copy its content without permission (by copy, I mean well beyond fair use). But the AP also is the cause for much of its problems. These articles explain more:

With both sides last year having talked about the importance of supporting journalism but debating Google’s role as supporting or hurting it, I suggested a cards-on-the-table approach. Now we’ve got the new deal, and I’d suggest again that both side should to explain what exactly is going on. My prior opinion piece:

There’s also a lot of misconceptions about how Google and news aggregators use news content. I’d recommend reading my primer to understanding more about this:

For related coverage of today’s news from around the web, see Mediagazer.

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