Idea: The Smiley as AP Copy Protection
The Associated Press has an ongoing problem with misappropriation of AP articles. Facts are not copyrightable, but the AP says they find entire articles reprinted by websites that aren’t licensed to publish AP stories.
So the AP made a confusing announcement this week, outlining a new approach in protecting its content. To some, the AP seemed to be suggesting they could actually prevent people from copying their articles the way DRM can prevent copying of movies and music. But it was pointed out that copying text is pretty trivial, so this sort of “DRM for text” is not possible.
But what if there were something low-tech the AP could include in its articles that actually made a difference? It won’t physically prevent copying, but it just might deter it.
There was quite a buzz in the news a few years ago when a Newcastle University research team discovered that people are more honest when eyes are watching them, even if the eyes are fake.
At the time, psychologists said, “It does raise the possibility that you could get people to behave more cooperatively… by putting up pictures of eyes,” and, “It would be interesting to know how one can apply these sorts of findings more generally in organisational structures and in society in general to maximise upon honourable and altruistic behaviour.”
In the original test, a photocopy of eyes placed above an “honesty box” in a canteen made people more likely to pay when taking a drink. If a mere photocopy will make people honest, maybe a more abstracted set of eyes can still have an effect. I propose an experiment.
This is how the AP currently formats its datelines:
NEW YORK (AP) — A judge ruled Thursday…
I propose a small change:
NEW YORK (AP) Ó›Ò — A judge ruled Thursday…
Yes, that’s right. I’m suggesting that the AP begin putting a little face in all their datelines. It’s the Smiley as copy protection. The AP could come up with their own set of ascii eyes, brand it, and include it in every dateline from now on. They could even pretend it has some other official function, like it symbolizes the AP keeping its eyes out for news. But people would see it and know what it means: “This is an AP article. Please don’t steal it unless you would do so even with your own mother watching.”
Then, when wayward bloggers prepare to copy and paste an AP article, they will be faced by those staring eyes. Maybe they’ll think twice. Maybe they won’t even know why. And then, when they choose to summarize the facts of the article instead of copying and pasting it, the smiley as copy protection will have done its job.