AP Will Sell You A License To Words It Has No Right To Sell

from the why-not? dept

Last year, you may recall, we pointed out that the Associated Press had a laughable sliding scale price if you wanted to copy and use more than 4 words (the first 4 free!). After that, it cost $12.50 for 5 to 25 words. This, of course, ignores fair use, which (and, yes, it does depend on the circumstances) almost certainly would let most people quote more than 4 words without having to pay. But, of course, it gets worse. Boing Boing points us to a little experiment by James Grimmelmann, testing out the AP's text licensing system, where he discovers that you can put any text you want into the calculator, and the AP will gladly sell you a license. So, just for fun, Grimmelmann paid $12 for a license to a (public domain) quote from Thomas Jefferson, culled not from the AP, but from Jefferson's famous letter to Isaac McPherson, where he warns of the excesses of intellectual monopolies:
Grimmelmann also points out the ridiculousness of the terms associated with licensing the content, including that it must be used exactly as written, and requires the exact attribution footer the AP's system generates (which never bothers to check to see if the content is actually from the article in question). Oh yeah, it also doesn't let you quote for "political Content," however that's defined. It makes you wonder if the same folks who build this little anti-fair use licensing system are the same folks who are building their DRM for news.

And, of course, there are similarly ridiculous situations, such as Dave Zatz finding out that it will cost himself $25 to quote himself (thanks johnjac). The AP keeps making a mockery of itself.

Of course, the AP has put out a statement, basically mimicking the one it put out last year, saying that the icopyright stuff is not intended for bloggers. But then who is it intended for? Considering that the AP has threatened bloggers in the past for quoting its words, the whole thing seems bizarre. So you can rely on fair use if you're a blogger, but not... if you're something else? How does that make sense? I've read through our copyright laws more than a few times, and I don't recall the clause that says "fair use applies to bloggers, but not others."

Update: As a few people have pointed out, after all the media attention, the AP "revoked" the license. Note the language. They didn't apologize. They didn't admit error. They didn't admit awful technology and a silly policies. They "revoked" a license they had no right to sell in the first place. At least they gave him his money back.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    Hey AP I have a bridge to sell you....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 1:55pm

    So...

    Did he request a refund? This seems kind of absurd to me. At what point did the AP decide that this was a good idea?
    Is it just me or does it seem that the AP doesn't even realize that they are quickly becoming the RIAA of the News Industry?
    I doubt they would see that as a bad thing in light of the last few rulings in favor of the RIAA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    JJ, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    This is pretty neat. I think we could have fun with this. Notice that the AP clearly claims copyright on whatever text you enter.

    Mike (or somebody else), you should enter your own article into the AP's form, and buy from the AP a license to your own writing. Then, when one of those scammy "news" sites (the ones that just republish all techdirt's stuff without attribution) republishes your article, you can report them to the AP for violating the AP's copyright on your work. If AP doesn't go after them, then you can sue the AP for, oh, how about: diluting the value of the license you purchased by failing to protect their IP!

    Fun fun fun.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Mockingbird (profile), Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    refund

    Grimmelmann's license was later "revoked" by the AP, and his fee refunded. The update is on his blog:

    http://laboratorium.net/archive/2009/08/03/license_revoked

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Leviathant (profile), Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    As a newspaper pal of mine recently said...

    ...you can't spell CRAP without AP.

    Evil-kudos to whoever sold them on the idea that each word published by the AP is worth $2.50. I suppose there's a sucker born every minute. Wait... is this iCopyright thing really just a brilliantly executed satire?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 2:53pm

    I wonder if you can quote four words at a time but separately without incurring a fee?

    "A hearing on Michael"
    "Jackson's estate has ended"
    "with the two men named"
    "in the pop icon's"
    "will retaining control of"
    "his financial affairs"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Jon B., Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 2:58pm

    Ok, so I signed up for an account under "Content Users" and everything and I still can't find the page in question. Where do you go to find this thing?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    a real coward hiding behind a keyboard, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 3:14pm

    HA

    Someone who owns the copyright to something should put it in there and get a license. Then sue the pants off them for their stupidity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 3:30pm

    You can put anything into an automated system and get the same results. He might want to consider that he is breaking the law by attempting to sell what isn't his. AP is operating in good faith, assuming that the seller has the rights. When they discovered the error, they dropped him.

    What's the big deal?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 3:30pm

    Fraud?

    If they don't own the rights to the phrase they are selling, how is this not outright fraud? How is it any different from me opening up shop to sell AP-copyrighted text for personal profit? Of course, they'll get by with it, because they're the AP.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 3:34pm

    Re:

    He is the buyer, not the seller. He purchased rights to reprint the phrase. It is the AP that is selling (not just attempting to sell) what isn't theirs. RTFA, Mr. AP shill.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Pete, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 4:02pm

    So, all this Fair Use stuff is confusing me...

    I'm a bit dizzied by the various Fair Use interpretations I've seen, so I clicked over to the U.S. Copyright Office site to get to the clear-as-mud definition. Wading through the page, I came across this jem:

    "Copyright protects the particular way an author has expressed himself. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work."

    http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

    And this is where I get dizzy: if the copyright does not extend to the idea or the factual information, what is it that AP is claiming? The string of words and sentences that make up a story? Isn't AP a news gathering/reporting entity. From what I remember, news stories are supposed to be factual (FOX, your copyright claims are not in jeopardy). So is it the gathering of the information that the AP is claiming, or are they failing the standard by which copyright is based?

    Ugh. I'm going to go lie down.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    PPNSteve, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 5:23pm

    Greed?

    So as I see this, to me, it seems that the AP is going the way of the *AA's - charging per word (song) some outrageous fee for what's openly and publicly published (especially on RSS feeds offered to the general public) and most like asserting that the facts contained in these stories are also copyrighted and licensable.

    So sad. AP used to have morals, guess the all-mighty dollar overwrites them now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Frosty840, Aug 4th, 2009 @ 3:05am

    Re:

    Dear sir,
    "I have a bridge to sell you" is a phrase originally used in an AP article originally produced in 1875. You now owe us $[value]%/6QqrCrapSoftwareError

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Tommy "Boy" Jefferson, Aug 4th, 2009 @ 5:51am

    Revoke!

    With the new changes in the way the AP is copyrighting the news, I've re-written the verse of a popular song...

    Oh the weather outside is frightful, (but I can't talk about it because it's copyrighted)
    But the fire is so delightful, (since I'm burning newspapers)
    And since we've no place to go,
    Let It [censored]! Let It [censored]! Let It [censored]! (Copyrighted words removed at bequest of AP)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Brave Coward, Aug 4th, 2009 @ 7:53am

    Re: commenting on your comment

    I'm still wiping my tears from laughing from your comment :-)

    I'm visualizing a jury trying to decide if enough time has passed between each 4 word quote for it to be considered a separate quote.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Pete Austin, Aug 4th, 2009 @ 8:58am

    Is the AP allowed to revoke licenses without notice?

    If so, that is worse then issuing them in the first place:

    * Issue a license and wait for buyer to publish
    * Revoke the License
    * Sue
    * Profit!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    tiffany jewellery, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 4:07am

    I'm visualizing a jury trying to decide if enough time has passed between each 4 word quote for it to be considered a separate quote.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Replica bags, May 19th, 2010 @ 7:04pm

    great post

    If they don't own the rights to the phrase they are selling, how is this not outright fraud? How is it any different from me opening up shop to sell AP-copyrighted text for personal profit? Of course, they'll get by with it, because they're the AP.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Led lighting company, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 1:06am

    With the new changes

    With the new changes in the way the AP is copyrighting the news, I've re-written the verse of a popular song...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    PauletteWelch, Jan 22nd, 2012 @ 4:31am

    reply this topic

    That is known that money can make people disembarrass. But how to act when somebody doesn't have cash? The only one way is to receive the loan and small business loan.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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