Hey, Saul

I can’t not respond to Saul Hansell’s nanny nattering at me and other bloggers over the AP Affair.

What the AP and The New York Times’ Hansell don’t seem to realize is how hostile an act it is to send lawyer letters to individuals. They have armies of attorneys. We bloggers don’t. The mere act of sending us a letter can cost us money out of our own pockets. Sending a lawyer letter is an assault.

Saul tweaks me about having a conversation first: “Mr. Jarvis, in particular, often talks about blogging as a conversation. It seems like the A.P. wants to talk, and many bloggers would prefer a temper tantrum to a discussion.” Saul, I don’t think you’re cut out for a career as a playground monitor for you don’t have the most basic skill of the job: recognizing who started it. The AP sent its lawyer letters. It declared war.

And so, Saul, I’d say you should pose this to the AP: Why didn’t it start a conversation — an open conversation — before starting war?

I would have appreciated it very much if Saul had noticed my efforts at conversation namely this post in which I tried to explain to the AP our ethic of the link and suggest that they try it on. The AP’s Jim Kennedy called it constructive.

I think Saul misses an important point made in the blogosphere: that it’s not up to the AP to set the definition of fair use. They can’t rewrite the law. You may say that they are trying to create safe harbor by setting their own rules. From our view, they are trying to put up a fence where it cannot legally exist. All they can say is this is when they will and won’t sue or send their threatening letters. That’s not saying whether they’ll win or should. It’s not so much a safe harbor as slightly shallower water. See fellow big-media blogger Matthew Ingram:

But that’s kind of the point: the AP doesn’t have to offer a “safe harbor” to bloggers or other media sites under certain circumstances. The fair use exemption under U.S. copyright law already does that, whether the newswire likes it or not (and clearly it doesn’t). If it wants to get someone to say whether a few sentences excerpted on a blog qualifies or not, then it can go to court and try to get a judge to do so. But sitting down and trying to negotiate some kind of blanket pass for something that is already permitted under law seems like a mug’s game.

Finally, Saul says it’s silly to talk about boycotting the AP because bloggers don’t pay it (yet). That’s where Saul is farthest off the mark. He’s ignoring the value of links. More on that in the next post.

  • http://www.chicagopublicradio.org Josh Andrews

    You make a great point about declaring war vs. starting a conversation. As a public radio station, we don’t have resources to send lawyers chasing after every perceived misuse of our content. While we make most of our audio available for download and encourage bloggers to link to our content, there are limits and occasional instances where we feel bloggers are taking advantage of our material. Last year we were faced with a blogger deep linking to audio files we didn’t want out in the public. Rather than sending a cease and desist, we simply sent an email and asked them nicely to stop and outlined our reasoning. And you know what… it worked. The blogger even posted about it and published the letter we sent. Here’s the link: http://paranoia.dubfire.net/2007/06/emotional-blackmail-takedown-remove.html

    Thanks,
    Josh Andrews
    Director of Internet Strategy, Chicago Public Radio

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  • Jim C.

    “What the AP and The New York Times’ Hansell don’t seem to realize is how hostile an act it is to send lawyer letters to individuals. They have armies of attorneys. We bloggers don’t. The mere act of sending us a letter can cost us money out of our own pockets.”

    C’mon, Jeff. The AP certainly knows. That’s why they would do it.

    But according to Bob Cox, the situation is not as dire as everyone thinks, and it looks like we have the ever-reliable (sarcasm) Gawker to thank for the brouhaha.

    http://www.mediabloggers.org/wordsinedgewise

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