AP v. Bloggers: The Debate Rages

My recent Tidbits post on the current controversy over the Associated Press' attempt to curtail the ability of online publishers to present even very brief quotes from AP stories without permission generated considerable discussion -- including one comment from AP media relations director Paul Colford, who said:

"[Rogers Cadenhead, owner of the Drudge Retort] addressed the concerns raised by the AP before your post appeared on Poynter.org.

"Regarding your statement that AP "has been trying to systematically profit from locking down fair use": The iCopyright Web form you referenced is not aimed at bloggers. It predates the Drudge Retort matter.

"AP partners with iCopyright to automate fulfillment of routine requests for rights to republish AP material, either from AP-hosted sites or member and customer sites carrying AP content. The licensing options vary greatly, from an array of uses -- such as e-mail, print and save -- through paid options up to and including large-scale corporate reprints of excerpts, full articles or photos."

This heated discussion has hit many corners of the online world. Here is a roundup of some of the most intriguing and salient contributions posted so far.

From the players in this case:

  • Backstory on AP/Drudge Retort Issue (Media Bloggers Association): Robert Cox's explanation of what's happened so far in this case. Very opinionated, and I question some things he says -- but worth a read if you're following this case.
  • AP excerpt license pricing and terms of use (iCopyright): "Derogatory and Unlawful Uses: You shall not use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to the author, the publication from which the Content came, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or depicted in the Content. You agree not to use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to or damaging to the reputation of Publisher, its licensors, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or referenced in the Content."
  • Associated Press, UPDATE June 20: Late in the day on June 19, after this item was originally posted, AP's Paul Colford sent me the following statement by e-mail: "In response to questions about the use of Associated Press content on the Drudge Retort web site, the AP was able to provide additional information to the operator of the site, Rogers Cadenhead, on Thursday. That information was aimed at enabling Mr. Cadenhead to bring the contributed content on his site into conformance with the policy he earlier set for his contributors. Both parties consider the matter closed. In addition, the AP has had a constructive exchange of views this week with a number of interested parties in the blogging community about the relationship between news providers and bloggers and that dialogue will continue. The resolution of this matter illustrates that the interests of bloggers can be served while still respecting the intellectual property rights of news providers." Obviously, this statement answers none of the questions raised by me or by Tidbits readers, and begs additional questions. Nor does it say what has actually happened. If any readers have further information about this, please comment below and provide links if possible. (See also AP's June 16 statement.)
  • Rogers Cadenhead, owner of the Drudge Retort. UPDATE JUNE 20: Cadenhead announced his resolution with AP but holds off on details. Also published in his "Workbench" blog: AP Files 7 DMCA Takedowns Against Drudge Retort (June 12), AP Rethinking Policy After Drudge Retort DMCA Takedowns (June 16), How the Media Bloggers Association Got Involved (June 18), and How Digg Handles DMCA Takedowns (June 19)

Bloggers revolt, boycott links to AP stories

  • Here's Our New Policy On AP stories: They're Banned (TechCrunch): "AP doesn't get to make its own rules around how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows. Like the RIAA and MPAA, they are trying to create property rights that don't exist today and that they are not legally entitled to."
  • AP, hole, dig (Jeff Jarvis): "AP, I don't give a damn about your guidelines. I have my own.The point of fair use and fair comment is that there can be no set guidelines. AP should start using our linking and quoting guidelines rather than its homogenization practices."
  • See no AP, speak no AP, link no AP (Charlotte-Anne Lucas): "Now AP wants bloggers to pay -- per word! -- and to give them credit and to promise not to say anything bad about anybody? Forgive me for saying so, but that sure sounds more like a muzzle of my free speech than a copyright license." (Note: Lucas, a longtime journalist, has worked at several AP papers.)

Possible news industry fallout:

  • To Excerpt The Associated Press or Not? (The Blog of the American Constitution Society): Analysis of the legal aspects of the current AP/bloggers flap by Univ. of Va. law professor Christopher Sprigman: "Unless everyone -- the AP and bloggers alike -- steps lightly here, copyright law could end up doing a lot of damage to both the blogs and the press."
  • Whither the AP? (Jeff Jarvis): "What would the world look like without the AP? Local papers can get local content from their own networks and national, international, sports, business and other content via links. They can also enter into cooperatives -- which is where the AP started."
  • The AP's Real Problem Isn't Bloggers: It's Its Own Newspapers (Silicon Alley Insider): More about how AP may be undermining its own business: "If local papers skip the AP, that means the core constituency is in revolt. That will potentially be more corrosive than the fight with the blogosphere over fair use."
  • Oh No They Didn't! (On The Media)Published Apr. 25, prior to the current Drudge Retort flap: "Eight of Ohio's top newspapers are sharing content in a cooperative effort called the Ohio News Organization (OHNO). The arrangement will allow the papers to sidestep the AP. Could this system be a lifeline for struggling news organizations?"

Other Angles:

  • The AP, Hot News and Hotheaded Blogs (Saul Hansell, New York Times): "A number of bloggers I respect a great deal didn't find the AP's openness to their ideas to be enough and have declared war on it. As someone who is both a blogger and an employee of a mainstream news organization, I worry that this hotheaded response is part of what gives blogs a bad name."
  • Hot Head Bloggers vs. Cool Headed Journalists (Mary Hodder): Analysis of why the language used by New York Times writer Saul Hansell in the blog post mentioned above was condescending and potentially misleading. Hodder's interpretation of the end of Hansell's post: "What it really says: 'You bloggers are so silly, how can you boycott something you don't pay for but you can't hurt the AP.' (Um, what about all those links and traffic driven to AP articles. I believe attention is the most valuable thing on the internet -- and if that's true, and bloggers stop linking and sending readers, well, that's a huge loss!)"
  • The A.P. Blogger Wars of 2008 (Venture Chronicles): "If the AP doesn't want bloggers quoting their stories, why make RSS feeds available?"
  • Rate Card Silliness (Robert Niles): "AP gets the award for Outstanding Hubris in Online Pricing. $12.50 to excerpt five words on a Web site? Let's take 50 percent off the top for overhead. Do you know any reporters over at the AP who are getting paid $1.25 a word?"

...This is my first step in following up on this controversy for Tidbits. Stay tuned for more!

  • Amy Gahran

    Amy Gahran is a conversational media consultant and content strategist based in Boulder, CO. She edits Poynter's group weblog E-Media Tidbits.


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