The Associated Press descends into madness and takes the first few, loping steps toward irrelevance:

I paid $12 for this “license.” Those words don’t even come from the article they charged me 46 cents a word to quote from (and that’s with the educational discount). No, they’re from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Isaac McPherson, in which Jefferson argues that copyright has no basis in natural law.

Does that stop the AP? No. They tell me I have to use the sentence “exactly as written” and heaven help me if I don’t include the complete footer with their copyright boilerplate. Along the way, their terms of use insisted that I’m not allowed to use Jefferson’s words in connection with “political Content.” Also, I can’t use use his words in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory” to the AP. As if. Jefferson’s thoughts on copyright are inherently political, and inherently derogatory towards the the AP’s insane position on copyright.

I require no license to quote Jefferson. The AP has no right to stop me, no right to demand money from me. All their application does is count words to calculate a fee. It doesn’t even check that the words come from the story being “quoted.”

That’s James Grimmelmann.  Unbelievable.  Can the AP really believe this will work?  I see traffic tailing off rather fiercely for them in the near future.  If others pile on what can we expect?  A largely irrelevant MSM online presence?  Will we be allowed to even link to their stories?  Will we even want to?  Bloggers should start a link-boycott of the Associated Press and any other news outlet that tries to charge $12.50 to quote five measly words.  Or fifty.  If they don’t want our ilk quoting or linking to them then that’s what they’ll get.

Writes Cory Doctorow:

Welcome to a world in which you won’t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you’ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.

Oy vey.  I say either a link-boycott or a cap on quotations from the AP at 4 words.  That would be funny, actually, if bloggers started only quoting 4 words at a time from any AP articles….

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2 thoughts on “copyfraud

  1. I don’t know. I’m starting to think that the reaction to this is a bit overblown. To be sure, the AP is acting somewhat deceptively to the extent it’s trying to suggest that a random blogger quoting even a few words of an AP article or just linking to the article should require a license. But I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the AP is serious about that element of things. If they were, they’d run into a pretty big fair use problem very quickly. Beyond that, they don’t want to test the boundaries of fair use because the possibility of losing could destroy their ability to earn revenue by merely having the threat of a copyright suit behind them.

    Where this project seems to actually be focusing is things like Google or news aggregators that copy the title of an article and reproduce some portion of the text of AP articles on a regular basis. So a blogger who occasionally quotes a few lines from an AP article and then provides his own commentary on the article has pretty much nothing to worry about. But a site that essentially just regurgitates AP articles as its primary activity would need to worry about a licensing fee. This makes a large amount of sense to me because at that point you’re probably not looking at much of a fair use defense.

    Where the AP may have a problem is that it will lose the ability to appear in a lot of search engines if those engines are unwilling to pay the licensing fees. But I think it might be okay with this because it will force people to go directly to sites that already either pay licensing fees or are themselves the AP .

    There are still some risks that the AP is going to face here and it may not pay off for them, but I’m not as offended by this maneuver as others are. The one site that I worry about this affecting in a negative way that could cause problems for bloggers would be memeorandum. But direct links to AP content are not that central to memeorandum’s way of doing things, so it probably shouldn’t make too much of a difference even there (at this moment, memeorandum contains only one direct link to an AP story).

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  2. I imagine this scheme will rack up some pretty heavy legal opposition if they don’t respect Fair Use.

    In any case, this wont work for the AP unless other wire services and news outlets adopt the same system. In other words, if I were an AP employee I’d be more worried about my job today than yesterday.

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