AP: That’ll be $2.50 a word for copy-paste, thanks

The blogosphere is starting to buzz. What’s the buzz? AP has kicked up about bloggers posting short, linked excerpts without paying.

Out-law.com says that the Associated Press issued Rogers Cadenhead (of the Drudge Retort) a series of takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The stories contained excerpts from 33 to 79 words long of AP stories, with links to the original articles.

The Drudge Retort defends these excerpts as fair use.

Wired reports that the AP has been a little rocked by the blogosphere’s defiant response:

“We need to take a step back. It doesn’t mean we’re going to try to define a legal standard for fair use. All we’re saying, we’re going to figure out how the bloggers can use our content in a way we feel gives them a lot of leeway but still protects us,” Jim Kennedy, an AP vice-president, told Threat Level in an interview.

Kennedy added: “Do we really want to take this fight into the blogosphere? I think the answer to that question is, ‘no we don’t.’ Bloggers are different. That distinction was not being made. To that extent, this has been a helpful episode.”[1]

The Citizen Media Law Project site discusses the debacle:

As Jeff Jarvis notes, the AP “is ignoring the essential structure of the link architecture of the web. It is declaring war on blogs and commenters.”

In fact, it is very likely that the posts AP is complaining about on Drudge Retort are permissible fair uses under the Copyright Act. First, several posts appear to be offering commentary on recent news items. […]Second, all of the posts use fewer than 80 words from the original AP articles. […] Third, it is hard to see how the posting of AP headlines and 80 word snippets could possibly impair the market for the original AP articles


While AP is entitled to issue a set of guidelines for the use of its articles, these guidelines are not legally enforceable and they cannot narrow the scope of what is permissible under the fair use doctrine. The blogging community needs to be careful not to allow these guidelines to become a de facto set of norms that constrain the permissible uses of news content.[2]

And the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) is on the case:

If the AP were right, that would sharply limit a practice widely used throughout the blogosphere to help spread information and promote public discussion. Many of those bloggers have worked as reporters, so you’d think they’d be well attuned to the issues here. If copyright means what the AP seems to thinks it means (which seems questionable), maybe the problem is with the law, not the bloggers.[3]

And Whiskey Fire discovers what the AP is really after:

[Excerpt for Web Use] Excerpt for Web Use

License parts of this article for republishing on your website or intranet. Pricing based on the number of words excerpted.
words Fees
5-25 $ 12.50
26-50 $ 17.50
51-100 $ 25.00
101-250 $ 50.00
251 and up $ 100.00

[1] 106 words.

[2] 168 words.

[3] 67 words.

If these excerpts had been from AP articles, the Associated Press would be wanting to invoice me for $125.00. Their pricelist alone should have cost me $17.50. Did you get your money’s worth today, Hoydenizens?

Categories: law & order, media

Tags: ,

7 replies

  1. TUH. Typical ‘what’s in it for us’ reaction from mainstream media.
    It’ll cost them a LOT more money chasing down bloggers and proving whatever they’re trying to prove. And how many readers do they get who follow on from mentions of newsworthy items on blogs? How many will they lose if bloggers get offended by this issue?
    Methinks they protest too much.

  2. There are examples coming from all directions of big business peering out and saying, “How can we exploit this new ‘blogging’ thingy?”
    Add that to people “monetising” their blogs and the inevitable get-rich-quick disappointment, and I think that the various ways in which the tension between the capitalist information economy and the gift information economy will be contested and resolved are likely to be one of the Next Big Things in internet sociology over the next decade.

  3. Some further fun and games – apparently they’re attempting to claim that rephrasing what’s in an AP story is an infringement of copyright as well (in other words, not only do they own the news story, they also own the events). Plus their list of terms and conditions states you’re not allowed to on-publish anything of theirs if you’re going to use it to criticise either AP, their service, or to say something derogatory about any of the participants in the events the story is regarding. Which rather puts the kybosh on crime reporting, if one thinks about these things.
    As to the comment about big business attempting to exploit blogging – the first businesses which attempted to exploit the “blogosphere” phenomenon were the ones who hosted blog sites. The most notable example of this being SixApart, who purchased the rather popular Livejournal blog/community infrastructure, and then proceeded to give lessons in “how to lose clients and annoy people” as they attempted to make money from the whole thing. The funny thing is, if they’d just left things alone, they wouldn’t have lost anywhere near as many customers (or had a lot of people decide not to bother with maintaining paid accounts or similar).
    I believe the central mantra which needs to be dinned into the heads of every executive who deals with anything online is “if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it”.
    Meg Thorntons last blog post..I cannot remain silent any longer.

  4. I know I’m going to start avoiding linking to AP articles in my blog. There are plenty of news sources out there — I don’t need them. Of course, my blog is low-traffic, but even if 100 low-traffic blogs stopped linking to AP stories, that could do some damage.

  5. You would think the AP had learned from the RIAA debacle. It’s like the Prohibition — there are some things you just can’t stop.
    Intellectual property is in for a huge reconfiguring in the coming years. The internet and especially the blogs have changed the culture of information and its spread. In blogs, the presence and passing-on of information, even word-for-word quoting, is a given, and the focus is on building on each other’s ideas, with credit to any influences but not so strict and formal as the IP of yore. You have to wonder what the AP thinks people did before the printing press — take their friend to court for repeating the same story they’d told the day before?


  1. AP backpedaling? at Hoyden About Town
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