Associated Press trials blockchain to end copy paste journalism

The end of copyright theft in journalism could be coming as one of the world’s most respected news outlets takes on a blockchain solution.

The Associated Press (AP) will trial a content management tagging project with blockchain journalism startup Civil to try to stop wholesale theft of the newswire’s work.

It marks another departure for the 172-year-old news institution, which has thousands of reporters stationed across 263 newsdesks around the globe

Along with rivals Thomson Reuters and Agence France Press, AP carries the prestige of one of the most trusted news organisations. News websites and papers can subscribe to the AP’s breaking coverage of world events but many simply lift paragraphs of reporting without paying or crediting the source.

AP prices start at around $1000 a month for access to unpublished breaking news updates.

Anywhere between 50 percent and 70 percent of news is thought to be lifted direct from news agencies without accreditation. Digital revenues have never kept pace with newsprint advertising and major newspapers have been closing for the past 10 years while they struggle to find a business model for internet news.

And with US President Trump calling the media he doesn’t like the ‘enemy of the people’ and ‘the opposition party’, confidence in mainstream reporting is falling to an all time low.

The AP will start licensing its content to 14 newsrooms in the Civil network, then these organisations will help the AP track the flow of its content and hope to bring in more licensing revenue.

AP will also get Civil tokens (CVL) as part of the deal, which give the holders voting rights on the editorial practices of the news project. The Civil token sale begins on September 18th.

Jim Kennedy, AP’s senior vice president of strategy and enterprise development told Digiday: “Right now, we send something out on the internet and we can’t really track it in all the ways it’s consumed. When we do contracts with people, we establish their rights to use it, and they’re generally followed. But when it’s published, it’s freely available for people to scrape and cut and paste. It used to be, we just worried about people using it for free. Now there’s this whole element of people using it for fake news and misinformation.”

The precise extent to which the companies are intertwined in this project is not exactly clear. Civil has apparently committed to building the blockchain content tracking model and has been funded with $5 million from Consensys, the Brooklyn-headquartered organisation that helps companies build products on the Ethereum blockchain.

Other attempts have been made in the past to halt copy-paste journalism; in 2009 the AP started building a News Registry to attempt to track and monitor usage around the web. In truth, this amounted to little more than a piece of Javascript code which was embedded into online feeds and whenever an AP article was opened, it noted that the piece was used along with the IP address of the user.

But recent high-profile magazine and news institutions have dropped AP, citing high costs and inflexible contracts. To some extent the massive growth in social media and citizen ‘reporting’ of breaking news events has altered the landscape of news production too.

Civil is a two-year-old startup founded by the former vice president of the Washington Post.

Main image: BigStock