AP Goes After Bloggers For Posting Article Headlines And Snippets

from the you're-going-to-lose,-badly dept

Last fall, the Associated Press claimed that it was ready to change to face the new internet world — and that meant not just being a gatekeeper, but joining in the conversation. As we noted at the time, though, AP execs said all that, only to immediately follow that up with plans that looked like it was trying to become a new type of gatekeeper. It didn’t help that the company had also just sued VeriSign’s Moreover division for linking to AP stories along with a title and a tiny excerpt. That sort of thing is clearly fair use — but the AP doesn’t seem to think so.

And, now, it’s expanding its target list. Rather than just going after the big aggregators (surprisingly, Google settled), it appears that the Associated Press is going after bloggers for merely posting a linked headline and a tiny snippet of text from the article. In this case, Rogers Cadenhead informs us that the AP sent 7 DMCA takedown notices last week to his site, the Drudge Retort (a site that mocks the Drudge Report). In six cases, a blog post on the site quoted just a small snippet of text from an AP article (between 33 and 79 words — nowhere near the full length of the article). In every case, they also contained links back to the original AP article. Five of the six used a different headline than the original AP article. The other complaint was about a comment to a blog post, which also included a very short snippet and a link.

On the face of it, it’s nearly impossible to see how this isn’t fair use, even though an AP representative insists it’s not:

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

Hopefully, they won’t send a takedown notice for quoting that. This is pure bullying on the part of the Associated Press, and a clear overstepping of its legal rights. It’s most certainly not a sign that the organization has adapted to the internet age. In fact, the most amazing thing is that these types of uses (a snippet and a link) clearly help drive more traffic to those AP articles. This is a pure “shoot-self-in-the-foot” move by the Associated Press — and if they have any sense of decency they should issue a very public apology.

In the meantime, since the Associated Press apparently no longer wants traffic, we’ll start looking for other sources when linking to stories. I can’t promise we won’t link to any AP stories (they’re everywhere), but given the opportunity we’d prefer to link to a news organization that’s happy to accept our traffic, rather than one that might sue us for pointing people their way. This is quite unfortunate, as there are many AP reporters who read this site, and with whom I have come to build a strong relationship. I think they’re quite good reporters, and it’s too bad they work for such a short-sighted organization.

Update: Someone from the AP has posted a response in the comments. It makes some claims that simply do not seem to represent reality, including trying to define what is and is not “the link-based culture of the Internet.” It claims that it won’t go after snippets — but doesn’t explain why that’s exactly what it did. And then it responds to a blog post from Jeff Jarvis that I have not seen and did not reference. If the AP seriously wants to respond, why not respond to what is actually happening or what we actually said, rather than someone else. Update 2: I should also note that the comment from the AP includes what appears to be a bit of a sales pitch suggesting that bloggers license AP articles.

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Comments on “AP Goes After Bloggers For Posting Article Headlines And Snippets”

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83 Comments
sonofdot says:

That's just too damn bad, AP

AP considers taking the headline and lede of a story without a proper license to be an infringement of its copyrights, and additionally constitutes “hot news” misappropriation.

Regardless of whether or not AP considers that to be infringement, it isn’t. They may wish its so, but that’s just too damn bad.

I searched for a federal regulation regarding “hot news misappropriation.” It’s not a crime, and it’s not infringement, and the legal doctrine established by the Supreme Court (it’s not a law) applies only to competitors, so again, too damn bad.

Although I enjoy reading the dead-tree edition of my local newspaper, I think since they pay AP for quite a number of their articles, I’m no longer interested in reading them. So I’ll just cancel the subscription to the newspaper, too. I’m not going to help prop up the dead horse these losers are riding.

Paul Colford (user link) says:

AP AND DRUDGE RETORT

AP wants to fill in some facts and perspective on its recent actions with the Drudge Retort, and also reassure those in the blogosphere about AP’s view of these situations. Yes, indeed, we are trying to protect our intellectual property online, as most news and content creators are around the world. But our interests in that regard extend only to instances that go beyond brief references and direct links to our coverage.

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 http://www.ap.org, as do many of our licensed customers.

We get concerned, however, when we feel the use is more reproduction than reference, or when others are encouraged to cut and paste. That’s not good for original content creators; nor is it consistent with the link-based culture of the Internet that bloggers have cultivated so well.

In this particular case, we have had direct and helpful communication with the site in question, focusing only on these issues.

So, let’s be clear: Bloggers are an indispensable part of the new ecosystem, but Jeff Jarvis’ call for widespread reproduction of wholesale stories is out of synch with the environment he himself helped develop. There are many ways to inspire conversation about the news without misappropriating the content of original creators, whether they are the AP or fellow bloggers.

Jim Kennedy

VP and Director of Strategy for AP

sonofdot says:

Re: AP AND DRUDGE RETORT

Gosh, Mr. Strategy, I read blogs with links and snippets of AP articles, which often piqued my curiosity. I would then follow the link and read the entire article, which I’m sure drove some ad revenue to the linked site. From there, I would often click on links to other articles. But since you seem more interested in redefining fair use, I’m not going to do that any longer. I’m not going to send links to interesting articles to my friends and associates. I’m going to treat the AP as though it doesn’t exist, which seems to be what you’re after. You asked for it, you got it.

Hulser says:

Re: AP AND DRUDGE RETORT

Hello Mr Colford. Hopefully you’ll be able to expand a little bit on your post. In the original post Mike said this…
In six cases, a blog post on the site quoted just a small snippet of text from an AP article (between 33 and 79 words — nowhere near the full length of the article).

In your reply, you stated…
Jeff Jarvis’s call for widespread reproduction of wholesale stories is out of synch with the environment he himself helped develop.

The contradiction seems obvious. Someone has to be wrong here. Seventy-nine words would seem, by any definition, within the realm of fair use, so either The Drudge Retort used more of the original article than this — in which case TD is incorrect — or the site did indeed use about 80 words — in which case it seems that your use of the term “wholesale stories” is incorrect. So, which is it?

One other quick question about the term “widespread reproduction”. Do you believe that, for fair use, there is a limit to the number of uses? Your statement above would seem to imply that even if each individual instance was small enough to be fair use, that if you “use it” too many times, that it’s not fair use? Is this correct?

Hulser says:

Re: Re: AP AND DRUDGE RETORT

When I wrote the above, I assumed that Jeff Jarvis was the author of The Drudge Retort. I had never heard of him before, but based on Mike’s update it looks like he has nothing to do with TDR site or, in fact, has any direct relevance to the story in the post. It hadn’t occured to me that someone from the AP would respond to a post about the The Drudge Retort with a statement by someone not even involved in the dispute. Shame on me.

nully says:

Re: AP AND DRUDGE RETORT

Get real – AP is out of touch w/ reality – moreover `shooting themselves in the foot. It flooded in my neighborhood today – Just because AP reported this bit of fact doesn’t mean I can’t summarize those who reported the event. I cannot fathom what AP expects to get – certainly nothing in the range of what it reaps in proprietary databases carrying the fulltext stories. If AP continues to attempt to twist fair-use, it will find many individuals seeking compensation for any item for which we are mentioned/named. After all, if we’re bringing “fair-use” up to speed in the greed dept., why should AP for example be unjustly enriched by using my name and event? Now that AP has ceased the traditional treatment of news in fair use context, the Pandora’s Box is now open on both sides. AP is treading into their demise IMHO.

Craig says:

Re: AP AND DRUDGE RETORT

What friggin’ century is your organization living in?

The little people, like me, have been fed “news” that was and is biased in so many ways for so many years, and now we have the tools to challenge you, and you don’t like it. Posting a headline and snippet is fair use. Period. Apparently the AP does not subscribe to the Theory of Evolution! Evolve or die, AP.

Entropy (profile) says:

Re: @Agonizing

Nope. Lede is an official industry misspelling, and has been around for a while, although there is no consensus as to its use versus “lead”. (This is possibly a word form imported from a Germanic language.) These guys also use other words like “hed” (header/ heading/ headline) as well. This is because the media have always had serious trouble with spelling, grammar, paragraph formation, writing above a third-grade level,and making sense in general. This last comment, of course, does not reflect on all publications or writers.

Jason (profile) says:

Dictate culture to someone else...

“nor is it consistent with the link-based culture of the Internet that bloggers have cultivated so well.”

I think the so-called blogger/Internet culture will decide for itself, thanks.

A plurality, (a majority?), though certainly not all within that culture value the complete erasure of your so-called copyrights in favor of the right to copy. It’s less of a corny oxymoron that way.

Nawtykitty says:

“…as do many of our licensed customers.”

Basically the Drudge Retort is not paying them the requisite amount of money for the AP to not mind them using AP as a source. Even though they are providing the link to the AP article to help drive numbers up, the AP wants to have money upfront. Not from the possible traffic revenue that another site “might” drive to it’s site.

Cybertelecom (user link) says:

We've Been Here Before

We’ve been here before. I remember, gosh it was probably 10 years ago, that there were a flurry of cases similar to this – but those cases dealt with framing, where one site would frame another site – usually news sites, and the first site would add advertisements and distort the news site. One noteworthy case was Washington Post v Total News. One thing the Wash Post made clear, at least at that time, is that they very much appreciated linking, because it drove traffic to their material. There has been a series of types of linking cases: linking, deep linking, framing, and thumbnail images. One consistent theme throughout all those cases is that it is legal to link.

Big Dragon (user link) says:

AP clearly never paid attention in English class

The AP has a big problem here. Billions of children have been taught how to cite from articles over the past several decades. What people are doing by quoting AP stories is no different from citing when it contains proper source references and credit. The AP is attempting to break established doctrine and common practice in today’s intellectual circles. This is a disgrace. If the AP wins control over their stories in any of these DMCA suits, then I fully expect it to contribute TRILLIONS of dollars to edit EVERY single textbook that mentions proper citation and source crediting when using information. Yes, every single textbook, because I remember English class and the whole citation/referencing thing quite clearly.

So what happens to a kid in a class quoting from an AP story on his/her semester report project? Is the AP going to slap a DCMA on that kid’s Word doc because they quoted something from an AP story for their report? Essentially, this is an implication from the AP’s current actions. The AP should be thrilled that they get their stories syndicated with source credit and a link back. Licensing that content is a bunch of crap. If that business model was in place a license would be needed for every single reference material in a library — something that would cost billions if not trillions for people and the government. If the AP is having money problems, then they need to rethink the content of their stories, their business strategies, and reduce each of their executives’ paychecks.

Did anyone at the AP ever actually pay attention in English class or a college-level law course? Or, were your parents too busy buying/complaining/throwing-money at the staff/faculty until your grades were straight A’s?

Chiron613 says:

I'd expect something like this in April...

…With a big “April Fool’s” at the bottom of the article.

It boggles my mind to think of the self-inflicted harm AP is doing to itself by suing anyone for using their headlines and blurbs.

I understand that the wholesale copying and republishing of articles is plagiarism. Headlines don’t appear to be protected. A leading sentence probably isn’t either. I’ve seen many cases in which a headline is repeated, sometimes verbatim, by different sources. You can only do so much with a few words describing an event. “X dies”, or “X is dead”, what else is there? Not much, so there’s going to be lots of repetition.

So OK, I won’t link to AP any more. Have it your way. You’ve just done yourself some irreparable harm.

SpinLock (user link) says:

I've met Jim Kennedy

I’ve met the Jim Kennedy. I worked at the AP in NYC from 2000 through 2005. I tried to sell him on opening the AP’s API’s to outside tool vendors. He talked for a while…. said it was a interesting idea… and I never heard back. And they didn’t do it (as far as I know, but that’s a pretty safe bet).

Interestingly, he’s in the Strategic Development area, not the web-lawyers area. I can’t imagine why they’ve got him commenting on this thing publicly. It’s not like he knows much about these tubey things, as evidenced by his complete lack of follow-through on what could have been a significant money-maker for the AP.

The AP is really falling apart. Most of the good software engineering types have long since fled (may I count myself among them?). The business model lurches from one failed strategy to the next. They’re fired the senior managers of their IT-development group, oh, five or six times in the last 10 years. And their only real strength – generating content with reporters on the ground, is the thing they pay the least attention to.

It’s good to be gone.

Alan L. Falk (user link) says:

They just don't get it...

the comments from the A/P representative describe, in a nutshell, that they do not understand the sea-change which has taken place in the past ten years or so with regard to information dissemination.

they’re trying to defend a model based on ownership of public information which basically collects rust within a day or so of its first appearance.

their argument might hold water for book publishing [fiction OR non-fiction], but their thinking is still telegraph-age.

as one of the other replies mentioned, their REAL competitors have seen the value of linking and quoting [and “copying”] and how it helps knowledge and information move that much more quickly into the public domain.

their attitude will, in the near future, be labeled as more “Luddite” than “Logical.”

any “win” on their part will, i guarantee, in the long run, be a long-term loss for them.

but they’ll have to figure that out for themselves…

as i recently posted on Current.com, A/P’s other problem is that for too many of their articles, the spelling and grammar suck AND scientific facts are so often mis-stated or misrepresented or misquoted that i, for one, have completely lost all respect for their “reporting,” and essentially begin everything of theirs that appears in my local paper as automatically coming “with a grain of salt.”

they can win all the lawsuits they want, but they can’t legislate respect for dreck.

Abdul says:

It's the AP that will Loose!!

I believe this will be a defining moment for the internet. I’m glad this issue had surface at this point and organization like the AP who can’t still accept the changing ‘news’ landscape will come to terms with the stark reality. I support Mark Carrington of Techcrunch stance in that the blogosphere should not accept these terms and boycott all AP articles henceforth. Let’s see who will win the duel: AP vs The Internet(http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=466&doc_id=156719&F_src=flftwo)

PHOTOJOURNALIST says:

AP really destroyd many great photojournalists by stealling from them rights along side with other big agancies & Media outlets!

I remember as a member of the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) & what was at teh time NAFP (national Association of Freelance Photographers) who most of us freelanced to AP how we phoght and lost because of Politics at teh time between AP and the at the time: ASMP Director Richard Weisgrau, which gave up almost everything to AP & other large Media Corps. And while was support to work with photographers from the NAFP, made some moves to really KILL THE NAFP which was very poor organization and was in fact Created to Fight AP abusing POOR PHOTOGRAPHERS! One must wonder why, AND DEFINITELLY SHOULD BE INVASTIGATED BY JOURNALISTS!

red says:

Too many people are taking this at face value. This is not a shortsighted attempt, as most of the commenters seem to think, to follow some kind of naive economic model based on greater control of the copyright. This is politics pure and simple. They know exactly what they are doing and they don’t give a hoot about the economics involved.

They’re just trying to control the message. If the bloggers don’t pick apart the stories, then few people would notice all the discrepancies in the stories themselves. It isn’t the link or the excerpt that really bothers them, its the context and the way the links are presented more often than not, take the spin out the propaganda. Just read the headlines and don’t try to analyze them. That’s the message I get from this.

Kuushaan says:

The issue is a bit problematic as we should understand both points of view which apparently collide with each other:

• AP has the right to look for compensation if someone uses their generated content – being images, video or text – if that someone gets money from using such contents.

• However, let’s not be naive: If we upload ANYTHING to the Internet, automatically it becomes public domain. Otherwise, would it not be easier to protect such contents and require a subscription to see them?

Well, this legal actions sound more like plain bullying of anyone who ‘dares’ to disagree with AP’s single-mindedly point of view. Anyway, from now on, I will join the TechCrunch policy on AP stories: ‘BANNED’.

patrick malone says:

ap article tropical storm julio in baja california

august 25 2008 and article was posted into the San Diego UnionBy Ignacio Martinez
(ASSOCIATED PRESS
6:55 a.m. August 25, 2008 CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico).
The people of Mulege, exhausted with a greater than 6 foot
river flood which inundated their town that day wonders where
Mr. Martinez was. The good residents of Insurgentes, whose
entire city of 8,000 was flooded, never saw him. The people
of Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, whose town was completely
isolated from the rest of the world due to all the roads
being washed out, have no idea who he is.
The fact that the relentless and tireless heroic work
of the road crews restoring some semblance of passability
on the Baja Sur main highway, in very short time, has not been noted by Mr
Martinez is, more or less, what is expected.

BILL says:

ap

AP… WE MUST REMEMBER IS JUST OUT TO MAKE MONEY BY SELLING STORY’S NO DIFFERENT THAN THE COMIC BOOKS AND NOT AS WELL PUT TOGETHER…..WHEN YOU GO TO MATT DAMON TO GET POLITICAL VIEWS….WELL ..YOU CAN SEE THERE IS NO TO REAL NEWS REPORTING ONLY GETTING ATTENTION WITH PRETTY FACES …..IT IS NICE TO SEE HOW HURTING THEY MUST FEEL THE OBAMA PARTY IS

KOMPASTV Admin (user link) says:

Associated Press (AP) News Contents

Hi All,

KOMPASTV provide Associated Press (AP) News Video Contents in :

* http://tv.kompas.com/ap
* OR
* http://tv.kompas.com/content/view/5739/246/

These sections are all about AP Video contents, still in Original Source…

KOMPAS-TV.COM is an Indonesian Video Streaming web site, which has been appointed by Associated Press (AP) to do VIDEO STREAMING for their contents in ASIA.

==========
Original Source : Associated Press (AP)

Associated Press (AP) in Indonesia :

* http://www.kompas-tv.com (General News and Information on Video Streaming)
* http://www.seleb.tv (Infotainment on Video Streaming)
* http://www.kompase.com (Entertainment on Video Streaming)
* http://www.videoku.tv (User Uploaded Video Streaming)

==========
The Associated Press is the backbone of the world’s information system serving thousands of daily newspaper, radio, television and online customers with coverage in all media and news in all formats. It is the largest and oldest news organization in the world, serving as a source of news, photos, graphics, audio and video.

The Associated Press provides the world’s most reliable, prompt, and accurate breaking video news, sports, and entertainment content to over 500 broadcast newsrooms, portals, Web, broadband and mobile customers worldwide.

===

News Information Video-on-Demand Video on Demand Streaming Live Associated Press AP News International KOMPAS KOMPASTV KOMPAS-TV KOMPAS.TV SELEBTV SELEB.TV SELEB-TV Business bisnis economy ekonomi technology teknologi entertainemnt entertain celebrity celebrities cebe artist artis gossip gosip infotainment infotainment

KOMPASTV Admin (user link) says:

Associated Press (AP) News Contents

Hi All,

KOMPASTV provide Associated Press (AP) News Video Contents in :

* http://tv.kompas.com/ap
* OR
* http://tv.kompas.com/content/view/5739/246/

These sections are all about AP Video contents, still in Original Source…

KOMPAS-TV.COM is an Indonesian Video Streaming web site, which has been appointed by Associated Press (AP) to do VIDEO STREAMING for their contents in ASIA.

==========
Original Source : Associated Press (AP)

Associated Press (AP) in Indonesia :

* http://www.kompas-tv.com (General News and Information on Video Streaming)
* http://www.seleb.tv (Infotainment on Video Streaming)
* http://www.kompase.com (Entertainment on Video Streaming)
* http://www.videoku.tv (User Uploaded Video Streaming)

==========
The Associated Press is the backbone of the world’s information system serving thousands of daily newspaper, radio, television and online customers with coverage in all media and news in all formats. It is the largest and oldest news organization in the world, serving as a source of news, photos, graphics, audio and video.

The Associated Press provides the world’s most reliable, prompt, and accurate breaking video news, sports, and entertainment content to over 500 broadcast newsrooms, portals, Web, broadband and mobile customers worldwide.

===

News Information Video-on-Demand Video on Demand Streaming Live Associated Press AP News International KOMPAS KOMPASTV KOMPAS-TV KOMPAS.TV SELEBTV SELEB.TV SELEB-TV Business bisnis economy ekonomi technology teknologi entertainemnt entertain celebrity celebrities cebe artist artis gossip gosip infotainment infotainment

Go-Gulf (user link) says:

How can they do this when it clearly falls under fair use?.
As a blogger – I’m crying foul. I think they are overstepping of their bounds here.

I think we may see an increase in bloggers looking at AP for articles to post. A title and snippet is about all it takes apparently.

If every single blogger did one post like that, every day for a month, I wonder how AP would react then?

Some times i get confused.

web design abu dhabi (user link) says:

Articles

I think that it shouldnt be a big deal for people to share articles and stories that are from the associated press. We all are trying to gather information and get as much as we can when we are online. As long as you cite your sources then you should be completely fine. I don’t understand why these big companies think that they are so high and mighty and deserve special treatment. Just doesnt make sense to me.

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