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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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: How long is it going to take...
By mezman on 6/17/2008 5:07:17 PM , Rating: 2
Your Mom's an evil vampire.


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