The Associated Press takes on the Internet


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Bloggers occasionally find themselves in hot water for stealing other people’s content. The hot topic at the moment with regards to blogs is the way the Associated Press has been dealing with people using its content. What exactly is “fair use”?

For anyone who doesn’t know, the Associated Press (AP) is a major news organization owned by 1,500 daily newspapers. AP went after the Drudge Retort, a social news website similar to Digg. The reason? Linking to AP content with short quotations between 39 and 79 words long. We’re not talking whole stories, but excerpts — with links to the original AP articles.

In an unusual move, AP sent a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven offending items. The fallout was major news, with Tech Crunch, a blog with 791,000 daily RSS subscribers and countless more readers, denouncing AP’s actions and “banning” all AP material from the Tech Crunch blog. The pressure from major blogs led to AP backing down, calling its approach a little “heavy-handed”.

The problem with AP’s actions is that there are countless sites, such as Digg, Stumbleupon and so on, that do the exact same thing the Drudge Retort was called out for. AP then issued a statement saying that it will go after blogs using AP content “when we feel the use is more reproduction than reference, or when others are encouraged to cut and paste”. AP then had a meeting and decided to back down once more, this time deciding that it would not be going after blogs. Impulsive much?

Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of AP, said, “Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see. It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context.”

An AP rep said, “The use is not fair use simply because the work copied happened to be a news article and that the use is of the headline and the first few sentences only. This is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of ‘fair use’. AP considers taking the headline and lede of a story without a proper license to be an infringement of its copyrights, and additionally constitutes ‘hot news’ misappropriation.”

Have you ever seen the website Digg? It’s massive. Thousands of its articles use the headline and lede. If AP puts its foot down here, there will be a serious backlash and people will just stop using AP content. Bloggers will use other news sources. AP really doesn’t understand how the Internet works.

The New York Times has also come under fire for defending AP. NY Times, of course, partly owns AP. Then there’s the Media Bloggers Association, who apparently represent all bloggers. Never heard of them? Neither have I. Neither has anyone. But that hasn’t stopped them being chosen to negotiate with AP guidelines for the use of AP content on blogs. Never mind the business links the Media Bloggers Association has with AP.

AP has gone way down in my estimation.

NY Times, Tech Crunch, Andy Beard

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7 thoughts on “The Associated Press takes on the Internet

  1. Matt, I'm going to support AP on this issue. I'm both a blogger and a publisher so I can speak with a foot in both camps.

    As a publisher I employ a team of journalists. That's a cost to my company and if they're getting exclusive quotes or stories then I don't see why anyone else should benefit from taking what would probably amount to the best 35-70 words of their story. I'm sure in your current role you'd not be too happy if someone used a word-for-word quote or paragraph you've written for your publication without any credit to you or your publisher?

    AP charges a lot of money to publishers for access to its service so why should bloggers be immune from paying for pretty much the same thing?

    I'm probably in a minority with this view but it should be interesting to see what those bloggers not involved in the media think about this issue.

  2. I'm sure in your current role you’d not be too happy if someone used a word-for-word quote or paragraph you’ve written for your publication without any credit to you or your publisher?

    But full credit is given along with a link to the original article. That's the whole point. The content is being credited. The AP articles are being linked to. I would have no problem with people using my content and crediting it with links in the way that the Drudge Retort did.

    Look at Digg.com. Articles are linked to the original source.

  3. But is the publisher getting any revenue? In the case you've highlighted Matt the BBC is the author and copyright holder. They've employed the journalist to write the original story. Digg has advertising so gets revenue but doesn't pay for the content.
    Yes, I know that you might argue that traffic may be driven to the BBC site as a result of that use, and the whole AP case rests on whether things like this are considered "fair".

  4. Exactly. It all comes down to whether this is fair use. I know I highlighted a BBC article, but the point was to show the exact same thing that AP has a problem with, which, incidentally, the BBC doesn't.

    The whole problem with fair use is that it's so vague. Does a submission on Digg add value to an article? People discuss it and rate it and visit the source. Surely that adds value. A discussion about a quote adds value to the original quote, which I think makes it fair use.

    I don't see that a quote could violate fair use.

  5. It's really a copyright issue at heart I think. If you want to have a news feed from AP or Reuters on the website of your publication you have to pay. In Thailand the Reuters breaking business news feed in English starts at something like 25,000 per month at the lowest level. There's big money in the content licensing business around the world.

  6. Surely those bloggers not involved in publishing want to comment about this? I guess most don't realise the possible ramifications if AP wins their arguement.

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