Over the weekend I put up a quick reference link to a growing controversy involving AP News and the blogosphere. Rogers Cadenhead, publisher of the Drudge Retort sent out an email to fellow liberal bloggers late last week stating that he had received a “letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.”
On Saturday, The A.P. retreated. Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., said in an interview that the news organization had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed” and that The A.P. was going to rethink its policies toward bloggers.
The quick about-face came, he said, because a number of well-known bloggers started criticizing its policy, claiming it would undercut the active discussion of the news that rages on sites, big and small, across the Internet.
Indeed, bloggers quickly sprang into action with a proposed boycott of AP News. A website and petition was created and the boycott has become a bi-partisan effort in the blogosphere thanks to plenty of “bipartisan blogger buzz” over the weekend (h/t Newshoggers).
Rogers Cadenhead, of the Drudge Retort and several other bloggers say that “the issue goes far beyond one site.” It does in fact hit all bloggers.
“There are millions of people sharing links to news articles on blogs, message boards and sites like Digg. If The A.P. has concerns that go all the way down to one or two sentences of quoting, they need to tell people what they think is legal and where the boundaries are.”
On Friday, The A.P. issued a statement defending its action, saying it was going to challenge blog postings containing excerpts of A.P. articles “when we feel the use is more reproduction than reference, or when others are encouraged to cut and paste.” An A.P. spokesman declined Friday to further explain the association’s position.
After that, however, the news association convened a meeting of its executives at which it decided to suspend its efforts to challenge blogs until it creates a more thoughtful standard.
“We don’t want to cast a pall over the blogosphere by being heavy-handed, so we have to figure out a better and more positive way to do this,” Mr. Kennedy said.
Now, the NY Times reports today that AP News has “said that it will, for the first time, attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.”
AP plans to “meet with representatives of the Media Bloggers Association, a trade group, and others” in discussions “so that guidelines can be released soon.”
AP News representative Mr. Kennedy said, “We are not trying to sue bloggers. That would be the rough equivalent of suing grandma and the kids for stealing music. That is not what we are trying to do.”
But the proposed guidelines from AP of “short summaries of A.P. articles rather than direct quotations” still seems heavy-handed to bloggers. Michael Arrington notes on TechCrunch:
They do not want people quoting their stories, despite the fact that such activity very clearly falls within the fair use exception to copyright law. They claim that the activity is an infringement.[…]
The A.P. doesn’t get to make it’s own rules around how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows. So even thought they say they are making these new guidelines in the spirit of cooperation, it’s clear that, like the RIAA and MPAA, they are trying to claw their way to a set of property rights that don’t exist today and that they are not legally entitled to. And like the RIAA and MPAA, this is done to protect a dying business model – paid content.
So here’s our new policy on A.P. stories: they don’t exist. We don’t see them, we don’t quote them, we don’t link to them. They’re banned until they abandon this new strategy, and I encourage others to do the same until they back down from these ridiculous attempts to stop the spread of information around the Internet.
I am encouraging all of our writers here to sign the Petition at UnassociatedPress.net and to make certain that they do not link to any AP stories which are widely distributed through many newspapers and new agencies.
There’s further discussion on this developing issue at: The Moderate Voice, Personal Democracy Forum, Outside The Beltway, Sweetness & Light, Althouse, The Carpetbagger Report, PoliBlog (TM), The Seminal, Concurring Opinions, Hot Air, Fausta’s blog, The Impolitic, The Glittering Eye, Macsmind, Connecting.the.Dots, Where Was I?, Gateway Pundit, Scott Rosenberg’s Wordyard, Bloggasm, Wake up America and The Other McCain.
And of course there’s a complete round-up of links at Memeorandum.