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Former ABC News boss David Westin to head up News Licensing Group

Former ABC News president David Westin has been named president and CEO of the News Licensing Group, a digital rights organization established by the board of the Associated Press.

News Licensing will launch this summer with content and data from the AP and more than 1,000 digital publications.

“I said in February that the News Licensing Group will be a game changer for news providers worldwide, and we have in David Westin the right person, respected throughout the news and entertainment industry, to ensure that this happens,” said AP president and CEO Tom Curley.

“News providers will need to work with digital distributors to make sure that this new world works for everyone — for the news organizations, for the distributors and ultimately for the public,” said Westin in a statement. “This is the mission of the News Licensing Group. It is an exciting moment for the news industry, and I’m honored to be part of it.”

Westin was president of ABC News from 1997 until late last year. He is a board member of the AP and in 2009 wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal over the kinds of issues he’ll now be faced with. In this case, the suit and countersuit between the AP and artist Shepard Fairey over Fairey’s artistic take of an AP-licensed photo of Barack Obama.

News release with more on News Licensing Group, after the jump…

Former ABC News President David Westin Named President and CEO of News Licensing Group

NEW YORK – Former ABC News President David Westin was named today to lead the News Licensing Group, the independent digital rights organization for news providers that will launch this summer with content and data from The Associated Press and more than 1,000 digital publications.

Westin, a media executive whose broad expertise extends to domestic and international law, will be president and CEO of the Group established by the AP Board of Directors to protect and license original news content to the growing array of digital communications products and services. The group will launch this summer. More than two dozen organizations have pledged support.

“I said in February that the News Licensing Group will be a game changer for news providers worldwide, and we have in David Westin the right person, respected throughout the news and entertainment industry, to ensure that this happens,” said
Tom Curley, president and CEO of the AP. “The new organization will begin operations under his leadership with strong media industry support and David’s exceptional entrepreneurial leadership.”

“The Internet and mobile platforms offer a wonderful opportunity to ensure that people have access to all the information they want, when they want it,” said Westin. “News providers will need to work with digital distributors to make sure that this new world works for everyone — for the news organizations, for the distributors and ultimately for the public. This is the mission of the News Licensing Group. It is an exciting moment for the news industry, and I’m honored to be part of it.”

Joining Westin will be Srinandan Kasi, who is stepping down as vice president and general counsel of the AP to serve as chief operating officer and executive vice president of the News Licensing Group.

The News Licensing Group will be owned by founding news organizations. The founding news organizations and initial participants will be announced in the weeks ahead, but Curley said the Group will be open to domestic and international news organizations.

The News Licensing Group will build its business framework on work done at the AP over the last eight years and on the technical capabilities of the AP News Registry to measure digital use of text news content from its participating news organizations. The enterprise will expand to include photos and video, as well as information and content in multiple languages.

The naming of Westin completes a timeline begun last year, when the AP board instructed AP to create an independent digital rights organization to serve as a licensing service for the news industry. In February, the board formally approved the new venture, which will be headquartered in New York.

“The board felt strongly that the AP, a news cooperative, was uniquely positioned to lead the industry on digital communications by launching the News Licensing Group,” said Dean Singleton, chairman of the AP board and chairman and CEO of MediaNews Group Inc. “I’m thrilled that David Westin has embraced the great opportunity that this exciting, new initiative offers the news industry.”

Westin served as president of ABC News from 1997 until 2010. He oversaw all editorial and business aspects of the news division, including all television programs, ABC News Radio and ABCNews.com. He first joined Capital Cities/ABC as VP and general counsel in 1991 and was responsible for all legal affairs including labor and government relations. He was later promoted to president of the ABC Television Network – responsible for all divisions and program units including ABC News, Sports and Entertainment, as well as sales, marketing, broadcast operations, engineering and network communications. Before joining ABC, Westin was a partner in Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C.

Westin, who has taught as an adjunct law professor at Harvard and Georgetown, served on the AP Board of Directors from 2001 to 2010. The firm of Bentley & Farrell conducted the executive search on behalf of the News Licensing Group.

Kasi was named vice president, general counsel and secretary of AP in 2006. He has been responsible for AP’s legal affairs globally, overseeing several strategic initiatives with a specialization in ventures involving advanced technology and digital business models. Kasi joined AP in 2004 as vice president of Global Business and deputy general counsel. He was previously a scientist with IBM. Kasi holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Houston and a JD from Columbia University.

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