AP, hole, dig

In Saul Hansell’s NY Times report on the AP affair, they only dig themselves deeper, saying they don’t want us to quote their stories but to summarize them. That, you see, is the AP way: the mill. That is not our way: the ethic of the quote and link. The AP is still trying to preserve its way. But, as I often say, protection is no strategy for the future. In the story – which, note, I’m only summarizing here, without the quotes from the AP that might better state its stance (ahem) – the agency comes off like a policy ping-pong game, going back and forth: We want to threaten but not to sue, we want to be reasonable but we’re still going to demand that Cadenhead take down excerpts, we don’t know what the hell to do. Maybe back off, AP. Because we won’t.

: Later… A few more points…

* Remember, AP, you declared war on the bloggers. Remember that.

* I don’t really give a damn what your guidelines are. I have my own guidelines. I stated them below. The point of fair use and fair comment is that there can be no set guidelines. That’s just ridiculous.

* I will say again that the AP should start using our linking and quoting guidelines rather than its homogenization practices.

* You’ve really done it now: You’ve pissed off Michael Arrington, who has joined the AP boycott.

The A.P. doesn’t get to make it’s own rule around how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows. So even thought they say they are making these new guidelines in the spirit of cooperation, it’s clear that, like the RIAA and MPAA, they are trying to claw their way to a set of legal property rights that don’t exist today. And like the RIAA and MPAA, this is done to protect a dying business model – paid content.

* Where’s my Reuters T-shirt?

* Note that TechMeme is ready to automatically substitute links to blog posts instead of AP stories.

* One last bit of advice for the AP before I get on my plane: Back off.

  • pluribus

    Everyone should retaliate by copying and posting as much AP material as they can. That will show them.

    No, wait. That’s the New York Times’ job!

    At the end of the day Jeff, it’s AP’s material and they are entitled to their rights. So instead of complaining that your right as a digital parasite (or photocopying machine) is being curtailed – why not generate some newsworthy stories? It shouldn’t be too difficult – and it cuts AP out of the loop.

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  • Hi Jeff,

    Long time, no read. It seems we only bump into each other when there’s a ridiculous fair use case like this one.

    I don’t have trackbacks anymore (too much spam) so I’m leaving you a link that summarizes what happened this weekend –and why lawsuit happy organizations like AP better think twice before messing with the blogosphere:

    Netroots’ bloggers boycott of Associated Press is working

    Pluribus, they are not entitled to trample on the rights of citizens to turn Fair Use of text into the craziness that music sampling has turned into.

    It’s one more reason why the DMCA has to be overturned. It’s anti-constitutional not only because it tramples on free speech but it blatantly does away with due process by giving corporations to right to say you’re guilty of copyright infringement and now it’s your onus to prove your innocence.


    Liza Sabater, Publisher

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  • tdc

    i avoid articles spun by the AP when they pertain to the current admin or the stock market.

    in these cases AP stands for Apple Polishers.

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  • Joanna

    I have a small sports-related website read by only a few hundred a week but my policy has always been that when I see an AP article, I look for the original article in the hometown paper and link to it. I never link to something that has “Associated Press” as the byline. Why send the (admittedly small amount of) traffic to an aggregator instead of the original source? It rarely takes more than a minute or so to find the original article.

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  • One of our writers, Jordan Golson, was able to talk with Kennedy on Friday (see the link from my name) and asked specifically about the licensing deals that Kennedy mentioned in his comments left on BuzzMachine, ReadWriteWeb, and The Industry Standard. When asked for an example, Kennedy cited the Huffington Post. The question I have for AP: Does the organization expect everyone — from Joe Blogger to MSM organizations — to license 33-word excerpts?

    Ian Lamont
    Managing Editor
    The Industry Standard

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  • Lummox JR

    Pluribus, every reasonable person can agree that the AP is entitled to their rights. They are not however entitled to redefine fair use so that others are denied rights of their own. The AP has every right to get upset about whole stories being reposted without licensing, but no right at all to push people around for mere quotes.

    The point of complaining about it is to send the message that this is bad behavior and we won’t tolerate it. Content bullying under the DMCA has gotten atrocious, if indeed it was ever not. What a total disaster of a law, penned at just the time that copyright policy should have shifted even more in favor of consumers than the already well-protected producers.

  • daddy

    To better understand the lunacy of the AP’s policy, let’s pretend they accurately printed some famous items of American History which bloggers wish to disseminate, and now let’s follow their paraphrase guidelines:

    1) DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: Sometimes in the course of day to day living it becomes necessary for colonists to tell their King to back off because they don’t want him or parliament taxing them so much. We’re at that place now, so because we’re decent folks who like stuff like freedom and low taxes and pursuing happiness, and because its self evident that all our decent lneighbors like such stuff, we’re now going to tell you about all the bad things the King has done to anger us and why we’re done with him…

    2) PREAMBLE TO THE CONSTITUTION: Us people of the US of A, are trying to forge a more cohesive nation than just the gaggle of 13 colonies we still sort of are, so in order to accomplish that we are establishing courts and laws and lawyers, hiring policemen, recruiting soldiers, generally trying to make things better for everybody, and striving to pass on freedom to our kids and grandkids. That being said, here’s how we propose to do it…

    3) FIRST AMENDMENT: Congress shall never make any laws ever that hinder the freedom of the press to print or televise or broadcast anything they want with complete impunity forever and ever Amen. And a couple other rights for the rest of you guys…

  • mcdtracy

    IANAL… the last time a got overheated about “fair use” I learned that it is NOT a right. It is a legal defense. Which means thay can ask you to take down the offending text and sue you if you don’t comply. You can then use “fair use” as a defense in the suit and MAY win (or escape damages).

    Needless, to say. Copies has a cost approaching zero for most media.
    Controlling copies as a business strategy is doomed to failure… how many fingers does it take to fix a broken dike?

    The AP will suffer huge looses in “good will” with this campaign to try to control their words to this degree. They would be better served by trying to get the copied text to link back to their internet properties and benefit from the attention generated as a result of being a source.

    Train the borrowers to respect the source and demand links back to AP properties. Manage the AP properties for revenue generating potential.

    Don’t send attention away from your properties… that’s like the NY Times first attempt to create value from their Web content: $59/year? and few takers. Now, they are open and generating huge revenues from ads… duh.

    AP needs an “advertising” strategy… and fast. Before they trash their brand so severely that consumers reject anything with their brand attached.

    PS> Rogers Cadenhead could use some help with a “fair use” defense if he stands his ground for changing the game in the courts. As a small business owner it’s likely he’ll let someone much bigger take on the case.
    Mike Arrington is a lawyer and he’s taking the “boycott” route… and his properties have a lot more revenue than Cadenhead’s. But court is always a waste for the small business owner… avoid it when possible. Lawyers are professionals that bill their time at very high rates and courts are still in “beta” in terms of efficiency and quality of results.

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  • Lummox JR

    Calling fair use a mere legal defense is to imply that the burden of proof rightly belongs to the user of the material; it should not. It may be viewed that way by the courts, but if so that means that either the law has been misinterpreted or badly written, or (most likely) something in between. Such a climate allows nuisance lawsuits and spurious DMCA takedowns, when it should be up to the owner of the media to prove a case. But until we start taking tort reform seriously (and by we I mean the politicians allegedly representing us), I don’t know if we’ll ever see improvement in that area.

  • I quote a Lot in my blogs, from a lot of stories from all over the globe, ap and otherwise. How the hell do they plan to even use a “fair use” argument and have it hold water?
    They are just trying to scare off bloggers so they can protect “their” content, despite the fact that it’s almost impossible to defend from the standpoint of “Fair Use”, unless you just lift the whole story without doing anything else to it, .
    I Don’t know about you, but I’m gonna push their buttons and quote ap stories even more, just to see what they do. These idiots at the AP can kiss my ass.

    “[A] reviewer may fairly cite largely from the original work, if his design be really and truly to use the passages for the purposes of fair and reasonable criticism.” Folsom v. Marsh, 9 F.Cas. 342 (1841),


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  • Hi Jeff,

    Proprietor of http://www.freepressgroup.eu based in the Netherlands here… On Saturday I was so incensed about AP I bought http://www.unassociatedpress.eu to push for the boycott, make available a petition, and consolidate both blogs and and news links on the case.

    Glad to see you are on this one with us!

    Richard Kastelein
    Groningen, Netherlands

  • Sorry make that http://www.unassociatepress.net – oops… A bit too Eurocentric on that domain name – bad habit!

  • undeer

    Your arguments are pretty childish, Jeff. “Back Off”? Come on. “you declared war on the bloggers. Remember that.” ? Don’t make me laugh.

    For-profit bloggers like Drudge and Techcrunch should pay a license fee, then they can use all the AP content they like. It’s what every small-town newspaper does, why shouldn’t bloggers just because their medium is the screen, not paper?

  • schwa

    “I have my own guidelines”? What are you, five?

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  • mcdtracy

    Fair Use:

    “[A] reviewer may fairly cite largely from the original work, if his design be really and truly to use the passages for the purposes of fair and reasonable criticism.” Folsom v. Marsh, 9 F.Cas. 342 (1841)

    Fair Use was intended to allow a critcal reviewer to embed segments of copy protected works in a review. The nature of “Drudge Retort” does NOT meet this criteria. It embeds text from AP without any surrounding critical analysis.
    As such it does not meet the intent of Fair Use, IMHO.

    Of course, I would like to see the law modified to allow quotations for copy protected works in all fields: text, music, photography and video.
    This would enbale the individual to create mashups, collages, new mixes and documentary video using the new personal digital creative desktop and on-line tools (blogs, downloads, podcats, etc).

    One can only hope that we see such a shift in the next few years.

    Make art legal. Historical examples are numerous and most pass the fair use defense:

    Picasso’s Guernica used segments of a a newspaper.
    and munber of “Variations on a Theme by…”
    any song that sounds like Chuck Berry wrote it: “Back in the USSR”

    Imitation is the sincerest form of plagarism?

    Larry Lessig on the SCOTUS, please.

  • There are so many great aspects of online publications, and blogs in particular, that can benefit anyone who is willing to adapt to the renovated content landscape. If AP doesn’t catch up soon, they’re bound to pay for it.

  • Pluribus

    Lummox, you’re ignoring my point – which has the answer you’re looking for.

    “The point of complaining about it is to send the message that this is bad behavior and we won’t tolerate it.”

    Uh huh. Then whatcha gonna do?

    Even if every blogger boycotts AP, then AP will carry on just as they did before. You can “declare war” and you can stamp your feet, and you can huff and puff – and none of it matters.

    “Content bullying under the DMCA has gotten atrocious, if indeed it was ever not. What a total disaster of a law, penned at just the time that copyright policy should have shifted even more in favor of consumers than the already well-protected producers.”

    Uh huh. Then whatcha gonna do?

    Hey, maybe you can “send another message” – that everyone ignores again.

    Reread my earlier post. The way to make AP go away and give up is to create better news. There must be someone smarter and more curious than the AP goons. Like I said, is that so hard to imagine?

    For you, it seems, it is.

    But keep sending those messages! They’re really gonna work.

  • Pluribus


    “Make art legal”

    Uh, it already is.

    It’s just that the freetards don’t want to pay for it – or do something better. That ain’t hard with news.

  • mcdtracy


    I don’t think I made my point clearly:

    “Make art legal”

    A lot of art reuses prior art by taking plot points, characters, quotations, images and music segments and makes a new work from these elements.

    In the restricting world of the DCMA such art is illegal.

    Almost all the classic Disney animated movies are re-workings of stories in the public domain: mostly the Brother Grimm.

    It’s this type of folk art I would like to see legally defended and protected from large corporate threats of law suits. Think of the the Stars Wars spin offs (fan created art) that we’re restricted by Lucas Film to protect their “rights”.

    That’s what I mean by “make art legal”… I view the issue from the point of view of the single creative that wants to re-mix culture.

    Making money from the art has always been the major problem the art must deal with. Now, the artist must deal with people that thin they are taking money from them through re-use.

    “Send lawyers, guns and money.”

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  • Jason Lopez

    There’s a lot of trash talk going on here. The issue is about work, i.e., effort. If you honestly put in the work to truly advance a story [e.g., reading everything available on a topic and becoming a human resource, cultivating additional sources, etc.] and then add your knowledge or commentary, that’s in the spirit of fair comment and criticism. But if pouncing on stories from AP, Reuters, Dow Jones, etc., quoting them, and pushing out a quick comment is how you keep page views up, you’re riding on someone else’s work. And if you’re legally allowed to do the latter, then you’re legally riding on someone else’s work.

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  • Where have I been when all of this went down? It’s almost like the funny papers. Sign me up for the boycott. I don’t care if they know they have been boycotted or not. It is about me doing what I have to do to make a stand. The Power of One is immense.

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