DOJ Will Not Challenge AP's Internet News Registry

March 31, 2010. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Antitrust Division sent a business review letter to The Associated Press (AP) in which it stated that the DOJ has "no present intention to challenge the development or operation" of "a voluntary news registry ... to facilitate the licensing and Internet distribution of news content created by the AP, its members, and other news originators".

Christine VarneyChristine Varney (at right), Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, stated in a DOJ release that "The AP's registry may provide a new, efficient way for news content users to identify applicable terms of use and purchase licenses for Internet news content ... The registry may benefit both news originators and content users by reducing the transaction costs associated with securing licenses for Internet use".

The letter states that the AP described the proposed registry as follows. It "would be a centralized digital database that would contain individual items of news content from multiple content owners. The Registry would allow content owners to register and list individual items of news content, specify the uses others may make of that content, and detail the terms on which such content may be licensed. A content owner could use the Registry to offer licenses for individual items of its news content, or to offer blanket licenses for categories of its content or all of its content. The Registry would enable registered content users to determine quickly the licensing and use terms applicable to a specific content owner or to individual items of registered content. That, in turn, would allow content owners and content users to reach agreement on use and licensing terms for Internet content in an efficient manner."

Also, the registry would be "voluntary and inclusive, rather than exclusive. The Registry would be open, on a nondiscriminatory basis, to all owners of news content with respect to each item of news content that they own, including AP members and nonmembers. It also would be open, on a nondiscriminatory basis, to all content users".

The AP also represented to the DOJ that the registry would not do many things. For example, it would "not be used to communicate or disseminate any revenue, traffic, use or transactional information among participating content owners or content users".

The DOJ concluded that this registry proposal "is not likely to result in anticompetitive harm and ... it may provide procompetitive benefits to participating content owners and users."

It "is unlikely to have anticompetitive effects on price, output, or competition among participating content owners or users. Participation in the Registry will not be exclusionary or exclusive and it appears that participation is not critical to the commercial success of any content owners or users. Nor will the Registry constrain in any way a content owner's ability to offer its content competitively outside of the Registry. The Registry is not likely to facilitate coordination among content owners, in part because each content owner will set its license terms independently and unilaterally, and because the Registry will use firewalls to partition each content owner's confidential business information."

The letter was signed by Christine Varney. The letter was sent to William Baer, of the law firm of Arnold & Porter, attorney for The Associate Press. Baer previously was the head of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Bureau of Competition (BOC), which shares antitrust authority with the DOJ's Antitrust Division.