The Associated Press News Registry shouldn’t face antitrust issues when it goes fully live the summer as long as the nonprofit news co-op sticks to the plans it outlined to the U.S. Department of Justice. AP asked for a business review, a fairly common practice when antitrust might be a question — such as 1,300 or so newspapers being given the chance to participate in the same licensing and distribution system. DOJ’s conclusion, issued Wednesday and published today: “The proposal is not likely to result in anticompetitive harm and … may provide procompetitive benefits to participating content owners and users.” The full letter from Asst. Attorney General Christine Varney is embedded below; the press release is here.
About 200 AP members are participating in the news registry beta that started last November; current plans call for a full rollout in July. The antitrust division’s ruling is based on AP’s description of the program, which is meant to give individual publications ways to track, license and distribute digital content through a common platform. AP has promised:
— to own all equity in the registry. A change in that could prompt further DOJ review.
— that participation is voluntary and inclusive.
— that access will not be exclusive and would not require a minimum commitment.
— publishers would not be limited to that registry alone and can choose which content to include.
— firewalls to keep non-public information from being shared between content owners.
— each participating content owner will set “unilaterally” its own licensing terms.
— that no content owner, including AP, will set or suggest licensing terms for any other.
This may assuage some concerns that the registry is an attempt to set prices or create a monolithic paywall.