As part of its promise to highlight who’s benefiting from all the linking done to newspaper articles across the web, the Fair Syndication Consortium says that in a recent 30-day period, more than 75,000 sites “reused” a newspaper article without sharing ad revenue with the original source. Of those sites, which the FSC describes as “unlicensed” to use the content, there were 112,000 “near-exact” copies of newspaper content. Not surprisingly, the FSC’s study finds that the biggest single offender was Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which the group says was responsible for running more than half the unlicensed newspaper content.
The FSC, which is operated by content monitor Attributor, has signed up nearly 2,000 publishers, including 75 percent of the top U.S. newspaper publishers and four of the five top worldwide news agencies (Reuters (NYSE: TRI), DPA, AFP and EFE). Even before starting the consortium this past spring, Attributor was already in the business of assisting individual publishers in tracking down sites that are using their content in an unauthorized fashion. The report can be seen as a not-so-subtle attempt to get websites — particularly Google — to strike ad deals with newspapers and thereby get some compensation for the original publishers.
Google wasn’t the only violator the FSC found in its look at what it describes as the reuse — which could mean linking to a news article and using some of the same words in a headline and lede paragraph — during the 30-day period between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15.
Although Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) has arrangements with roughly 800 dailies through its own newspaper consortium, the FSC said that Yahoo and Google together account for nearly three-quarters of total unlicensed reuse. The other sites that run ads alongside the use of unlicensed newspaper articles included Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Audience Science, AOL (NYSE: TWX), and a number of ad networks. So far, The FSC has a deal with just one ad net, AdBrite.
The FSC doesn’t consider blogs to be a big part of the problem. Among the top 1,000 sites reusing the most articles, blogs represented less than 10 percent of the total.
In addition to the 112,000 near-exact article copies — the FSC defines that as using more than 80 percent of the original item and more than 125 words reused — an additional 163,173 acts of excerpting without authorization were found.
The FSC doesn’t really have any power to restrict the unlicensed use of content. For the moment, it’s only hope is to exert subtle pressure on the larger sites like Google and others, to start signing deals with newspapers. But until publishers carry out threats to remove their content from Google’s search engine, or otherwise put their content behind paywalls, the FSC will have little ability to wring the ad revenues out of the unlicensed use of newspapers’ work.