Why you should care about Automated Content Access Protocol
Lost in the knee-jerk anti-MSM reaction to the recent Belgian copyright case was a distribution-rights development that could be more important in the long run: ACAP, the Automated Content Access Protocol. It's an initiative to define a machine-readable "industry standard to enable the providers of all types of content published on the World Wide Web to communicate information relating to permissions for access and use of that content."
The project is being driven by traditional publishers, mostly in Europe, which probably taints it in the minds of many. But the aims are not at odds with the Creative Commons, which says its goal is "enabling the legal sharing and reuse of cultural, educational, and scientific works." Both groups support the idea that a creator of content should be able to encourage usage under limited terms. Creative Commons in fact has about a dozen alternative licenses setting various restrictions on content reuse.
The problem is that there is no standard way of saying, for example, "you may read/index/link to this item but you may not repurpose it into your own website" or "you may republish this, but only without alteration and only in a noncommercial context" in a way that computers can understand. ACAP aims to develop such a standard, building on preexisting technologies.
The ACAP project is expected to deliver a standard by November of next year, and will involve not only publishers but at least one search engine company in the planning process. If it achieves its goals, the outcome will not be a wrestling match between content publishers and developers of new network services, but rather the framework for partnership without misunderstandings, confrontations and lawsuits.