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Burying the AP in a Grave of its Own Making

AP Banned

The Associated Press has decided to join the MPAA and RIAA by jumping on the bandwagon of blatantly ignoring existing copyright law. Over the weekend, the AP sent 7 DMCA takedown notices to the Drudge Retort (a parody of the Drudge Report) for short snippets posted on the site. (Update: This isn’t the first time the AP has misinterpreted fair use) For those of you who are unaware, the AP has a long history of trying to squash all competition. By essentially having a monopoly on the news, the AP is able to keep new outlets from springing up where a member paper already is. Then, along came the Internet, where it is impossible to have a monopoly on the news. Of course, the AP has had some trouble with this new market. Their response? Sue everyone in site.

Obviously, these postings are clear instances of fair use. Only 1 of the stories used the original headline and all six were under 79 words. Clearly, these could not replace the original article. In fact, these stories would help the AP by sending traffic their way. For those of you on the edge, here is a quote of a story in question:

Clinton Expects Race to End Next Week

Hillary Rodham Clinton says she expects her marathon Democratic race against Barack Obama [sic] to be resolved next week, as superdelegates decide who is the stronger candidate in the fall. “I think that after the final primaries, people are going to start making up their minds,” she said. “I think that is the natural progression that one would expect.”

This story only uses 18 words from the original story, along with a 32 word quote of Hillary Clinton. It also includes a link back to the original article. Despite falling clearly under fair use, the stories had to be taken down due to the ridiculousness of the DMCA. Once again, the flaws of the DMCA are abundantly clear: it favors huge companies and organizations who are then able to trample over all forms of public debate and opinion. Yet, the associated press claims it is not fair use:

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 lead of a story without a proper license to be an infringement of its copyrights, and additionally constitutes “hot news” misappropriation.

Ummm, what? It is not fair use because it happened to be a news article. Since when did news articles not have to follow standard copyright law? According to the AP, using the headline and the first few sentences only is not what fair use intends. In fact, that is the essence of fair use: quoting a small piece of a copyrighted material to provide commentary or clarification. What would they rather have us do, quote the entire article? No, I think they want bloggers to buy licenses:

The Associated Press encourages the engagement of bloggers — large and small — in the news conversation of the day. Some of the largest blogs are licensed to display AP stories in full on a regular basis. We genuinely value and encourage referring links to our coverage, and even offer RSS feeds from, as do many of our licensed customers.

According to the New York Times, the AP has apparently backed down from the original heavy-handed stance. Looking between the lines, it actually looks like the AP might be gearing up to launch a further onslaught against bloggers. By developing a set of guidelines (stricter than the law allows), the AP will be prepared to send out wide-spread DMCA notices. Unfortunately, most bloggers will have to comply and will not be able to challenge in court, even though they would win there. Interestingly, the AP has still not withdrawn the takedown notice for the 7 original stories. In a rather observant remark, the vice president of the AP draws the clear connection with the RIAA:

“We are not trying to sue bloggers,” Mr. Kennedy said. “That would be the rough equivalent of suing grandma and the kids for stealing music. That is not what we are trying to do.”

And no other organizations have ever tried that? Looks like the AP has decided to follow in the footsteps of the MPAA and RIAA. Fortunately, TechCrunch has a response: ignore all AP stories. Henceforth, we bury AP stories and don’t quote them. I am more than happy to sign onto this and will no longer link to or quote an AP story on this blog. Let’s see how long this copyright strategy lasts if their traffic drops like a stone.

You can find the original stories summarized on this page.

Simon Owens has extensive information upon the AP’s record and interviewed Rogers Cadenhead about the story.

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6 Responses to “Burying the AP in a Grave of its Own Making”

  1. 1 Andy

    For what it’s worth, the DMCA doesn’t actually require that content to be taken down. It makes that the easiest option, sure. But there is a reasonable amount of time to file a counterargument (two weeks? I don’t recall) that describes why it is fair use. If the AP doesn’t respond (properly), the content stays. Of course it’s a bit weighted against individual content providers, but there is a proper process to do the right thing ™ without heading to court.

  2. 2 arthus

    @Andy: Actually, I think in the short term the content does have to be taken down. You are right that a counterargument may be filed, but until it is granted or received the pieces must be taken down.

  3. 3 Redoubt

    There’s a game being played right now… one with smoke and mirrors and slight of hand.

    First of all, the AP comes out of nowhere and attacks a single blog.
    After allowing enough time for word of this action to spread and create the uproar that followed, the AP switches gears. Now they are the benevolent mega-corpo-media… a misty vision of Miss Congeniality if you will, that wants to write a new set of rules, for them and by them.

    Next, they use a group of media bloggers, Media Bloggers Association, (oxymoron?) to create the illusion of genuine negotiations but where the sole effort will be the trashing of the Fair Use Doctrine.

    It’s a really grand scheme because if the majority of the blogsphere can be convinced to voluntarily abandon Fair Use in favor of this new matrix, they… the MSM in general, and the AP specifically, will have crippled those hated bloggers.

    To combat this effort, bloggers need to reinforce their support for use of the Fair Use Doctrine and make sure they clearly state that they neither recognize nor support any faux agreement between the AP and the Media Bloggers Association.

  4. 4 arthus

    @Redoubt: I couldn’t agree more. The AP does not have the power to change copyright law and set its own guidelines about what is and what is not fair use. Fair use is universal, not limited to a single mega-corporation.

    Fortunately, we do have recourse: whenever sent an unjust take down, file a counter petition and be public about it. We could also blatantly increase the amount of fair use material supported.

    Another option is to just ignore the AP entirely and send no traffic their way.

    Maybe someone needs to make badges saying “I support fair use.”

  1. 1 Bryson
  2. 2 Jaquan