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ACAP Answers Its Critics

ACAP Answers Its Critics
29/01/08

Since the recent launch of ACAP, the new standard to protect the intellectual property of anyone publishing on the worldwide web, the blogosphere has been full of comments about it -- and not all of them have been polite.

In addition to a great deal of supportive commentary, the Automated Content Access Protocol has faced an inevitable flurry of criticism. ACAP and its supporters, which includes the World Association of Newspapers, are facing the issues head-on and answering their critics.

Publishers globally are being encouraged to implement ACAP, which will allow anyone who publishes content on the web to express individual access and use policies in a language that search engine robots can read and understand. Details about the standard, and its quick and easy implementation, can be found at http://www.the-acap.com

ACAP has been developed at the initiative of WAN, the International Publishers Association and the European Publishers Council in close collaboration with search engines to protect the intellectual property of anyone wishing to make content available on the worldwide web.

But it is inevitable that criticism follows any project that raises the question of copyright in cyberspace. Some, though not all, of the critical commentary has been thoughtful and well-informed, and ACAP is now responding to these questions.

The most common criticisms are answered at http://www.the-acap.org/critics.php

Here are a few of the criticisms, and ACAP responses:

"Publishers are dinosaurs who do not understand the internet"

The publishers who are involved in ACAP are among the largest and most successful of online publishers; they have not achieved this through a series of lucky accidents. Publishers employ very sophisticated technical and marketing people, who know at least as much about internet publishing as their critics. Of course, it is possible to disagree over internet publishing strategies - publishers are not uniform in their approach to any medium - but it is discourteous in the extreme to suggest that the publishers who are engaged in developing long term strategies for their businesses are universally old, uninformed and out of touch.

"Publishers who want them can already negotiate commercial deals with the search engines - they don't need ACAP"

Business relationships on the internet should not simply be about deals done between very large corporations - and it's not practical for every publisher online to broker separate deals with every search engine even if the search engines were willing to enter into discussions. ACAP works simply, effectively and for no cost, for all corporations, large and small, making it possible to communicate permissions in an automated way avoiding the otherwise impractical and unrealistic need to negotiate a multitude of deals on both sides. ACAP aims to enable the majority of smaller publishers, bloggers, smaller search engines and other innovative creators and intermediaries to enter the growing market for online content with confidence.

There are, and will be, some publishers who do indeed have negotiated agreements with some search engines. However, it is our experience and awareness through the work on this pilot that, for the vast majority, in all sectors, ACAP is plugging a major gap. If there wasn't a gap to plug, we wouldn't be wasting our time.

"The big search engines aren't involved so don't waste your time"

Major search engines are involved in the project. Exalead, the world's fourth largest search engine has been a full participant in the project.

Any lack of public endorsement by the major search engines has not meant a lack of involvement - indeed, quite the opposite, and our open and collaborative approach has allowed everyone, members or otherwise, to see what we have been doing and contribute if they want. Which means that from a practical point of view, ACAP has been the huge beneficiary of input, technical know-how and quiet wisdom of all of the major search engines, albeit in an "informal" way. A large number of representatives from Yahoo, Microsoft and Google attended the New York launch. We consider them as friends and collaborators and look forward to working more closely in the future.

"This is just about money for publishers"

No: but no one would deny that it is partly about money.

Publishers are not ashamed about making money out of publishing - that is their business. High quality content is expensive and it needs to pay its way. Also, it is important to remember that one of the key services authors seek in a publisher is exploitation/protection of their work on their behalf. ACAP will help publishers fulfil their responsibility to their authors in the development and optimisation of their work.

Content owners make substantial investments in the creation and distribution of books, films, newspapers, websites and countless other kinds of content, and they need to be able to make a fair return on those investments. Business models are changing, and publishers need a tool that is flexible and extensible as new business models arise. ACAP will be entirely agnostic with respect to business models, but will ensure that content owners can adopt the business model of their choice. If a content owner is able to find a business model, which works, for both their users and themselves they will succeed. If not they will fail. ACAP won't be the ultimate arbiter, the audience will. So ACAP presents a win-win for the whole online publishing community and the readers and users of content with the promise of more high quality content and more innovation and investment in the online publishing sector.

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.


ENDS

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