Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, June 18th, 2008.


AP v. Bloggers

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blogging, News Media

Here’s the latest on the Associated Press v. Bloggers smackdown you may have read about elsewhere. The AP has announced an “Excerpt for Web Use” policy that requires payment of fees based on the number of words used. For example, one would owe the AP $12.50 for excerpting as few as five words. Yes, m’loves, that’s 5, as in the number of fingers most people have on one hand. See this article in BetaNews for more details.

Cernig at Newshoggers reports that the AP used 154 words from the rightie blog Patterico’s Pontifications and did not offer to pay Patterico. Per the AP’s scale, it owes Patterico $50.

Kos says he’s going to excerpt wantonly from the Associated Press all he pleases, nyah nyah nyah.

Lots of blogs are calling for boycotts of AP content. Not me. I’m going to keep using it. I will copy and paste as many words as I feel necessary to make my points and that I feel are within bounds of copyright law (and remember, I’ve got a JD and specialized in media law, so I know the rules pretty well). And I will keep doing so if I get an AP takedown notice (which I will make a big public show of ignoring). And then, either the AP — an organization famous for taking its members work without credit — will either back down and shut the hell up, or we’ll have a judge resolve the easiest question of law in the history of copyright jurisprudence.

The AP doesn’t get to negotiate copyright law. But now, perhaps, they’ll threaten someone who can afford to fight back, instead of cowardly going after small bloggers.

Having worked in print media for years, I can tell you that “fair use” often is one big gray area. I have encountered publishers who wanted a permissions fee for use of one sentence from a magazine or newspaper article to be republished in print. But on the web, if the brief excerpt is fully attributed and linked back to the original article, this is both driving traffic directly to the original article and also making the article more visible to search engines, which is a benefit to the publisher if its ad revenues depend on traffic.

I sometimes find entire blog posts of mine pasted on other blogs, and this annoys the hell out of me even if it’s linked. If the entire article is there, why would anyone feel a need to click on the link back to me? But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about brief excerpts. The AP is nuts.

Update: Scholars & Rogues is taking the side of the AP. I just left the following comment there:

Having worked in print media for years, I can tell you that “fair use” often is one big gray area. I have encountered publishers who wanted a permissions fee for use of one sentence from a magazine or newspaper article to be republished in print.

But on the web, if the brief excerpt is fully attributed and linked back to the original article, this is both driving traffic directly to the original article and also making the article more visible to search engines, which is a benefit to the publisher if its ad revenues depend on traffic.

I sometimes find entire blog posts of mine pasted on other blogs, and this annoys the hell out of me even if it’s linked. If the entire article is there, why would anyone feel a need to click on the link back to me? But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about brief excerpts. Now the AP wants to charge bloggers for use of as few as five words. That’s insane.

I write for the New York Times Company’s About.com site, which is a big commercial site, and I can tell you we live and die by traffic. Search engine optimization and traffic driving is the be-all and end-all of that business. If someone excerpts some of my writing with a link, this drives traffic back to my work on About.com and also helps move my writing up to the top of google searches, driving more traffic. Ultimately this makes About.com more money and it makes me more money, which makes me happy.

The New York Times encourages us to sniff out people re-publishing entire articles, and the NYT lawyers will issue takedown orders if such an article is found. But excerpts with links? We like people to publish excerpts with links.

There is indeed a crisis in news reporting now, because newspapers are losing revenue and cutting back on reporters and news bureaus. News gathering costs money, and bloggers do make free use of the work done by news-gatherers.

However, the issue ultimately is one of business models. The old print media business models don’t apply to the Web. How will news gatherers and media make profits in the future? The way things are falling out now suggests traffic and SEO are huge assets that web sites must cultivate to survive.

Update: See also Techdirt and Knoxnews.

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