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Bloggers vent their frustrations at the AP's legal aggression

The Associated Press (AP) is a leading source of online content, but it charges a hefty fee for the rights to it.  With growing competition from state services and criticism on its pricing, the AP is growing concerned that its bottom-line is slipping. 

In response, it began to escalate its legal campaign against the blogging community, which it feels is undercutting its revenue by reposting article snippets without paying.  However, the AP's content has become such a fixture in the internet world that this campaign may lead either to dangerous campaign against major sites such as Wikipedia, or to a double standard in which small blogs are attacked, but major sites are spared.

The blogging community is striking back at what they feel is an atrocious abuse of fair use via Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedowns.  They have launched a campaign humorously entitled "FU AP".  Leading the campaign is the BuzzMachine's Jeff Jarvis.  He writes that he once hoped that the AP would survive and overcome its challenges, but he's reconsidered and may want to take that back. 

He states, "The AP has filed truly noxious takedown notices against Rogers Cadenhead’s community-created Drudge Retort, arguing copyright violations for quotes from 33 to 79 words long.  For shame, AP."

Jarvis says the AP "leaches off original reporting and kills links and credit to the source of that journalism."  He says that while it is legally entitled to do so, in that it pays members to reproduce their reporting, in doing so the AP is violating the ethic of linking news, a guiding tenet of the online news culture.  Jarvis suggests that news aggregators such as Google News, Inform, Daylife, and Pro Publica start linking only to original sources, skipping the AP entirely.

Google's deal with the AP is among the items he objects to.  He says that Google should be linking to original content, not licensing to the AP, though he acknowledges that the AP deal significantly jump-started the site.

The call to arms is continued with a statement, "In its complaint against Cadenhead, the AP is flouting fair use and fair comment. It is ignoring the essential structure of the link architecture of the web. It is declaring war on blogs and commenters. So let’s fire back. I urge bloggers everywhere to go to the AP and reproduce a story at length in solidarity with Cadenhead and Drudge Retort."

Jarvis proceeded to repost a 146-word long section of an AP article as an example to his readers.  He then provided links to the original article, a story from Gazette Online about the flooding in Illinois, which he says is far better than the AP's "homogenized version" of the story.  He encourages other bloggers to join him in fighting the AP's revenue scheme by linking to the original source, putting the power back in the hands of the writers and taking it from the redistributors.

Along with Jarvis's new campaign, the owner of the blog most recently attacked by the AP, The Drudge Retort, posted a response to the AP's claims.  Rogers Cadenhead, owner of The Drudge Retort, states that the AP has used DMCA takedown notices on 6 of his blogs which contained AP excerpts between 33 and 79 words with links to the AP article.  Only one of the six took the AP headline, the other five had user-created headlines.  Cadenhead's site encourages its over 8,500 users to post blogs.  Of the blogs which the AP is demanding the site take down, two of them were written by Cadenhead himself, while the rest were user created.

The AP also ordered a takedown of another blog, for a user comment, which included two paragraphs from an AP article.  The AP states that the blog excerpts and the user-commented blog amount to "hot news' misappropriation under New York state law."

Ironically, Cadenhead points out, the original content creators of the stories encourage reuse in many cases.  The original source of two of the disputed articles was Yahoo News, which encourages bloggers to use its items.  Two more of the citations were sourced from USA Today, which contains a tool to easily translate articles to Digg or Mixx form.  Attorney Wade Duchene, who had previously assisted Cadenhead in a domain name dispute, is siding with the blog owner, stating that the AP is wrong and that The Drudge Retort's actions are the "absolute definition of fair use."

Cadenhead acknowledges that the law forces him to take down the blogs in question whether or not he thinks they're fair use.  However, he encourages users to file counter-notices to the AP asserting their own copyright.  He also encourages AP's Intellectual Property Governance Coordinator Irene Keselman, author of the letter sent to him, to explain the AP's position in more detail.

As the war of words between the AP and blogger escalates, it brings two things into question -- one, the legality of the bloggers' practice of linking to and posting small excerpts from copyrighted texts, and secondly the legitimacy of the AP's underlying business model, which is accused of disenfranchising both the writers and the citers.  Ultimately, though, the growing debate is proving, above all else, to be unfortunate distraction to the real task at hand -- covering the news.



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RE: How long is it going to take...
By bighairycamel on 6/16/2008 11:48:58 AM , Rating: 5
Through the fifteen years of my life I spent in school or college, I was always taught that as long as you credit the original author you could use citations in your reports. In most cases, if you failed to cite the source it was an instant fail, or a letter grade for each occurence at the least.

The DMCA is really screwy in that it claims "fair use" rules around electronic sources of data are in some way different, or the rules are so gray that they get confused, misinterpreted, or just skewed to protect profits. It's so stupid and goes against everything students and journalists are taught.


RE: How long is it going to take...
By borismkv on 6/16/2008 8:16:38 PM , Rating: 2
The major problem that the AP is facing is unsanctioned and often uncited use of their material by *for profit* online publications like Dailytech (which has, on occasion, rewritten AP articles without permission). The people who wrote the original material have a right to be paid for their work, and the company that funds it has a right to profit from the service they provide. The suits will likely never go beyond ensuring that for profit news sites do not violate copyright, and should not affect the average non-profit blogger's use of cited material. Now, I don't know exactly what the AP's fees are for permission to use their material is, but I imagine it a great deal less expensive than having to pay for full time journalists and editors to cover everything the AP covers and to have it hold any kind of standard of excellence.


RE: How long is it going to take...
By mindless1 on 6/16/2008 8:53:01 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, but the people who wrote it ARE being paid for their work, and if the day comes when they can't make the wage they want for that work, they are free to do what every other citizen of a free country is free to do, find a different job.

Similarly, if the company that funds it finds that they can't make the profit they *want* to make, they can do one of three things:

1) Accept less profit.
2) Find new ways to make a buck in this information era.
3) Throw in the towel, pack up and go home.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying it's just for some 'sites to just rip their work, but I am saying the argument about entitlement isn't quite so plain and clear. People shouldn't be kept from hearing about the news in this world unless somebody gets paid enough money, let those who will do it for the love of the job do so when the industry gets squeezed as it inevitably would because if the internet is anything it is a better way to disseminate information, including news.

I will say that I find it very annoying when websites post only snippets of a news article then link to the rest, it often results in my clinking to that then having to click again once I'd read enough to realize it was just a teaser, then reread that portion again on the originating site.


By borismkv on 6/17/2008 12:33:27 AM , Rating: 2
And the people who are ripping off that work are making a buck by stealing another's work, sometimes claiming it as their own. Is that fair? Is it even remotely ethical? It is most certainly illegal.


By MatthiasF on 6/16/2008 8:44:22 PM , Rating: 2
You are allowed to use copyrighted material in your reports for school or college because of the first test of fair use.

To quote:

"1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use#Fair_use_und...

Any reports you right while in school or college fall into the "nonprofit educational purpose" mentioned. I should also bring up that nonprofit and education are not mutually exclusive. The work must be both.

Journalists were taught this in school and follow professional guidelines outlined by their editors and professional organizations.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_ethics_and...

On a personal level, I was taught the MLA 4th edition in high school, and used it as a template for nearly everything I've written since. But the book was specifically written for writing research papers that would fall under the nonprofit educational exemption.

The latest edition, six, now includes a chapter on copyright infringement after many readers of the MLA found themselves exposed because of the lapse of information on fair use. Since most schools use the MLA to teach their students how to write their papers, and for nearly 15 years any mention of copyright law was left out of the book, we have a very large portion of the population who can write very well but don't understand copyright law. To add to this, they've been thrown into the cheapest medium of publishing ever created, the Internet.

So, we have a generation out here today that can use a brand new, cheap and fast medium incredibly well to do things they don't realize is wrong. When people tell them it's wrong, instead of giving penance, they continue, expect what they've done to be pardoned and the processes that keep the world turning altered so they can keep doing it.

I think, just like the flower-children coming of age in the late 70s and 80s, we're going to see a digital generation coming of age in ten years and this debate will be over when they realize that their hard work is being eat away at by their naive ideals and cheap euphoria (in this case free stuff and not drugs), and not some evil conspiracy against them.


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