Times Online is first newspaper site to implement ACAP

Times Online has become the first national newspaper website to implement ACAP, a new a new system for regulating search engines’ access to news content on the internet that was launched yesterday in New York.

The Automated Content Access Protocol, or ACAP, was launched on Thursday at a conference held at the headquarters of the Associated Press, following a year-long pilot involving publishers, the French search engine Exalead and international publishing bodies including the World Association of Newspapers.

ACAP works by extending the existing the Robots Exclusion Standard, which uses a file known as robots.text to allow online publishers to set basic rules for how search engines’ indexing software, known as crawlers or spiders, should access their content. Using ACAP, publishers can set more sophisticated terms and conditions for access to their online news stories, such as only allowing access after a set time delay.

In a letter to delegates of the conference, WAN president Gavin O’Reilly encouraged online publishers to implement the system and display an ‘ACAP enabled’logo on their sites.

ACAP project manager Mark Bide of Rightscom Ltd said: ‘Unprecedented industry support and commitment to the ACAP pilot must now be followed by a huge effort to roll ACAP out to the widest possible audience in the shortest possible time so that the digital publishing sector can reap the benefits of all the hard work to date.”

ACAP is being touted as a way of preventing legal clashes between publishers and search engines other copyright, such as the dispute between Google and French- and German-lanuage newspapers in Belgium. However, neither Google nor its major search competitors, Yahoo! and Microsoft, have participated directly in the year-long pilot that lead to yesterday’s launch.

Yahoo’s senior vice president of intellectual property, Joe Siino, told the conference: ‘We are not members of ACAP but we are involved informally as are our competitors.

‘We appreciate ACAP’s effort to make more content available on the web. We appreciate the concerns of our publisher partners that they should feel confident to make content available to the world. We also appreciate ACAP‚s really open and collaborative approach. We look forward to working together in the future.”

A spokesman for Google said the ‘We welcome any initiative that enables search engines and publishers to work together more closely.

‘We are discussing this proposal with the WAN and in particular how it can build on robots.txt–the nearly universally accepted Internet standard that already enables publishers automatically to prevent the indexation of their content and is honored by all reputable search engines.”

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