A year ago there was a flurry of legal action between Google and European newspaper publishers. A group of publishers (newspapers, book publishers and others) have since supported the development of a new and more complicated protocol which is intended to supplement and, to an extent, to replace the ‘robots.txt‘ protocol that regulates the behaviour of spiders and search engines. ACAP (Autormated Content Access Protocol) is the result. This proposed standard has received sceptical notices from O’Reilly Radar and Lauren Weinstein. And a damning and derisive review from Martin Belam.

The whole ACAP initiative and the publisher gripeing about Google is misplaced. Rather than figuring out how to control and micro-manage the existing search engines, publishers need to be prepared to be as open as possible, whilst still selling what they determine they can sell by way of subscriptions. While ACAP isnt as goofy as file-based DRM, it could only be developed by a publisher mindset that is looking in the wrong direction. The evolving standard that we should really be concerned about is OpenID. This standard will be important and useful to subscription-serving publishers because there is a great case for providing subscription services which inter-operate and recognise their varying membership policies. Publishers need to spend more time on enabling communities of readers and less time devising protocols for micro-managing copyrights. See the Radar post on OpenID. See also WhatIsOpenID.