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The Battle Over Online Content

Earlier this month, the blogosphere – and to a lesser extent the Twittersphere –duel.jpg was blazing with news that the Associated Press was pressing bloggers to take down content it felt was in violation of copyright law.  Not only were bloggers annoyed that the Associated Press made this request, but they contended that AP routinely cribbed content from bloggers, but failed to credit them for their work.

The Associated Press soon backed down, but the AP-blogosphere flap is only a taste of what some are saying will be a war between producers of user-generated content and the mainstream media.  According to BusinessWeek:

“The dustup between the AP and bloggers was just an early skirmish in what's likely to become a protracted war over how and where media content is published online. On one side are bloggers and other Web sites eager to ensure continued access to information. On the other are media companies intent on controlling or cashing in on the dissemination of their stories, videos, and other digital media.”

Although the latest skirmish has received a lot of attention, the content wars have been going on for a long time – but in a more subdued form.  Currently, bloggers, online video users and companies like Google are winning.  However, faced with declining ad revenues media companies are actively looking for ways to make money on online content people are used to getting for free.

The battle over content coupled with efforts to begin charging Internet users by the megabyte may transform the Internet in profound ways depending on how these trends play out.  Will we continue to see information exchanged freely and people using the Internet whenever and however they want?  The answer to that question will be determined by all those who have heavily invested in the status quo.  Because they will do anything to ensure the online party continues, I’m not sure if things will change that dramatically.  However, I could be wrong.


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