Morgan Spurlock’s production company, Warrior Poets, has struck a development deal with the news wire service Associated Press. According to a press release issued earlier today, under the terms of the agreement reached between the two parties, Warrior Poets will have unlimited access to the AP’s massive archive of content — which includes articles, photos and video on a wide range of topics including but not limited to politics, war, technology, fashion and film. Furthermore, the agreement grants Warrior Poets permission to use the AP content archive as the basis for developing projects across the film, television and digital platforms.
The announcement of the Warrior Poets/Associated Press deal comes on the heels of The Weinstein Company and Gannett Media Co. first-look film and television development deal announced earlier this month.
Without looking at the actual paperwork, the terms of the TWC/Gannett and Warrior Poets/AP deal appear similar. Differences, however, become apparent when one compares Gannett and AP: two vastly different companies, not only in terms of the scope of their intellectual property, but also their respective roles in the publishing industry.
Whereas the Gannett archive is mostly comprised of content with a domestic focus, the AP archive covers a much broader range of topics with global relevance. Furthermore, Gannett is a media holding company: meaning that the Gannett content archive is aggregated via a network of print, radio and television outlets that fall under its ownership. AP, on the other hand, is a production hub — a subscription-based news wire service that generates news reports in written, photo and video formats for re-publication by around the world. Purchasing a subscription to AP is akin to a licensing deal because it allows publications to you to re-use AP content as long as credit is given where credit is due.
The licensing of IP is built into the DNA of AP. Reporters, producers and photographers at AP give up their IP rights upon accepting a position at the wire service. In other words, they produce content with the knowledge that it will be re-purposed a million times over.
The issue being raised here is not legal misconduct, but rather one of ethical responsibility — specifically, Gannett’s responsibility to the journalists working within its network of publications. Prior to making a deal with TWC, Gannett was not in the business of providing licenses for content being produced within its media network in the same way that AP does. How then, could its journalists have anticipated a deal of this nature taking shape — a deal that could result in a massive return and that they would be cut out of as a result of surrendering IP rights to Gannett?
From AP’s perspective, the Warrior Poets/AP deal is just like any other subscription — except with a much better pay off. The terms of the deal put AP, which was forced to lay off portions of its staff in both 2009 and 2012, in a favorable position as they are not faced with the problem of reallocating their own manpower and resources toward this effort.
And as Spurlock notes in the press release, the access provided by this deal “is an unbelievable resource” for a documentary filmmaker like himself. “This agreement will allow us to cultivate a multitude of exciting new projects based on AP’s countless fascinating news stories,” he said.