Dean Singleton, the chairman of the Associated Press, has unveiled a new initiative to "protect news content from misappropriation online." Translation: People, please stop Googling the news!

The New York Times says Google is the top target here — which is confusing, because Google licenses the AP newswire and hosts its articles on its own site (such as this story about the earthquake in Italy — don't sue us, Dean!).

The AP's own statement doesn't clarify matters much. But it sounds like the AP, which is a cooperative owned by 1,400 U.S. newspapers, wants to go after Google and other online headline aggregators for misuse of all of its members' stories, not just wire copy. From the AP's press release on the move:

The Associated Press Board of Directors today announced it would launch an industry initiative to protect news content from misappropriation online....

As part of the initiative, AP will develop a system to track content distributed online to determine if it is being legally used. AP President Tom Curley said the initiative would also include the development of new search pages that point users to the latest and most authoritative sources of breaking news.

Did the AP really just say that it wanted to come up with a competitor to Google News? That's hilarious — especially considering how, for any given AP story, you'll find hundreds of identical copies online — posted by all of its paying customers, including newspapers and TV and radio stations. We can't wait to hear Singleton presiding over a meeting to decide which member's website gets the top link. It's all kind of ridiculous, since Google only recently started selling advertising on Google News, and directs massive amounts of traffic to newspaper websites.

(Photo by AP)