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The Drudge Retort homepage  (Source: Drudge Retort)
Blogger remains defiant against AP, explores legal options

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provided a valuable tool for copyright owners such as artists and writers to defend their property online.  However, in the ever evolving online community, the DMCA notices, as they are commonly known, are being used more and more often, at times threatening seemingly legitimate sites.

Some argue that the DMCA powers are being used to infringe upon users' online freedoms -- and frequently.  The latest and perhaps most thought provoking DMCA battle is building between the Associate Press (AP) and The Drudge Retort, a social news/blog owned by Rogers Cadenhead, over the reposting of AP article snippets.

Interestingly, the AP is attacking both the owner for his news posts that occasionally contain small excerpts of AP text linked to the original story, and his users who similarly post snippets from various web stories on the internet in the contents.  In both cases, the AP says this makes these pages in question DMCA takedown fodder. 

Pursuit of action against the first alleged type of offense -- site-run reprints -- could threaten many news distribution sites such as Digg, Reddit, and Mixx, which bring news to millions of users a day.  The second purported illegal offense -- users reposting comments is even more far-reaching as users on major news sites frequently have users post snippets from AP articles.

The second allegation in particular is raising a provocative question -- should commenters' actions result in punishment of a site?  If so, this would mean news sites must scour every user post and try to determine if it contained copyrighted content.  While The Drudge Retort is a relatively small fish, the questions raised by the AP's attack are salient to most of the online industry, from news sites, to the multitude of forums that see similar posts.

While it’s possible that major outlets like AP will only target minor, relatively weak targets like The Drudge Retort, some fear that they may begin to target multiple sites, similar to the RIAA's campaign against filesharers.  In the AP lawyers' letter to Cadenhead, they state their belief that "The Drudge Retort users' use of AP content does not fall within the parameters of fair use."

They continue, "AP considers taking the headline and lead of a story without a proper license to be an infringement of its copyrights, and additionally constitutes 'hot news' misappropriation."

Seven takedown notices were filed in total against the site. 

The AP is a wire service, both online and offline which writes news stories that are reprinted for heavy fees by member outlets.  The service does not have its own "inbound links" or "search-juice", contrary a misconception held by some bloggers.  Only its members do, which is why they are willing to pay a premium for it.  The AP's stance, while a bit draconian does make sense from one perspective -- if writers could get the content for free, why would they pay AP so much for it?

The attack on the site is part of a growing campaign of legal actions from the AP.  In October they targeted the news site Moreover owned by Verisign, which has similar type of service, but in its case charges users for it and a variety of other content.  However the Moreover case was slightly more blatant as the site was allegedly reposting entire articles without paying.

The AP debate highlights the questions surrounding the rather ambiguous legal concept of "fair use" which is decided on a case by case basis on many determinates.  Among these are whether the use is part of a commercial effort or if it’s for nonprofit.  Other factors include the nature of the work and the size of the excerpted text in relation to the size of the full original text.  Also considered is the effect on the owner of the copyright.

While Moreover is obviously violating fair use by the above definition, it’s harder to tell with The Drudge Retort.  Its owner obviously sees his site and its commenters' use as fair use, while the AP disagrees. 

While the AP has yet to wage full scale online war to similar occurrences which litter the web and online news, this latest case illustrates a more aggressive shift on its stance on fair use.  The ramifications of the case and those that follow may be extremely significant to the future of the online world.

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By wordsworm on 6/16/2008 8:44:43 AM , Rating: 2
Interestingly, the AP is attacking both the owner for his news posts that occasionally contain small excerpts of AP text linked to the original story, and his users who similarly post snippets from various web stories on the internet in the contents.

'snippets from various web stories' Can you be more specific? Are these snippets a few words, a few sentences, or a paragraph or two? Also, are the original writers credited by using a correct citation?

Wholesale copying of content is illegal and should be enforced. Quite frankly, reposting the same content is pretty much cheating. Hire a writer or take the time to paraphrase and/or rehash the source so that it's original content. Not doing so is bad for writers in general.

If folks are following the general guidelines that are used by academia, then I find it hard to believe that there would be any success by the lawyers. After all, it would quickly put into question the legitimacy of any academic magazine, theses, etc. So, I can't help but wonder how much these sites that they're going after have infringed.

Should users' comments be censored? It's certainly easy to say that I would like to have complete anonymity in posting my feelings. However, I can't help but support the idea that I must also be held accountable for whatever I say. Being an advocate of legalizing recreational drugs, I can honestly say I wouldn't want the RCMP or Interpol tracking my movements after a passionate post about how making drugs illegal and the war on drugs is really a war on the people and a war against personal freedoms - and that drug culture is something that the world shouldn't be afraid of (I could go on, but I'm afraid I'd wander from the original intent of this point.) I get hassled enough by authorities whenever I go home (they're really nosy). Maybe a censor could figure out my ID and put a note to do a full cavity search, or rape my hard disk, whenever I cross a border, for example.

Perhaps, then, the person who owns the site needs to funnel some of the profits made by ads into hiring some people to actually go through all the posts. On the other hand, maybe the AP needs to come up with some free software that could politely indicate to webpage owners when a copyright is being infringed. Certainly no censor in the world can be so intimately familiar with all the copyrighted material in the world that they can spot an illegal post.

Well, in any case, the issue isn't an easy one that will go away any time soon. I think the AP has to pursue this in order for some balance to be found. Surely they'll go to an extreme that will be retarded, but I find nonetheless that the pursuit of protecting writers' and publishers' rights is worthwhile.

Remember, the Internet is still a very young medium. The law, in the best sense of the word, needs to find a way to protect everyone's rights. This isn't an easy task, and without folks like the RIAA and AP going overboard, there is no way for the law to figure out where the lines should be drawn.

In any case, clearly nothing is simple, but it's my opinion that this is a necessary thing for us to all have our collective rights and even employment protected.

RE: Question
By borismkv on 6/16/2008 11:51:07 AM , Rating: 2
According to the AP style rules, as well as multiple other citation rules like MLA, a quotation with more than three words in exact order is considered plagiarism if it is not properly cited. Furthermore, any quotation by a commercial entity without express written permission of the original copyright owner to reprint material is grounds for lawsuit. This isn't under the DMCA rules, but has been the standard law for print Journalism for decades. The AP is using the very small portions of the DMCA that I agree with that apply copyright law to modern distribution methods.

I personally do not believe it is right for any person to claim the work of another as their own. I believe that the blogging community needs to adapt some serious etiquette to posting information. For example, bloggers should be stating their opinion and backing it up with articles only by linking the original. Not quoting it word for word. It isn't difficult.

A good bit of the money the AP makes goes to pay the journalists who write the articles. Each time someone prints AP information without paying the AP fee basically pulls money right out of some journalist's pocket. And if that person is then making money off the deal themselves, it becomes quite a bit worse in my eyes. Which is why I sincerely hope that Dailytech is paying the AP fee. Cause if they aren't, well, our friend Jason Mick might be in a bit of trouble some day soon. And I'm not going to shed a single tear when that happens.

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