Rewriting An AP Story Just To Show We Can

from the come-and-get-us dept

Kevin Stapp writes "As I was browsing some news this morning I actually read one story all the way to the bottom (a rare thing nowadays). The story itself wasn’t nearly as interesting as the Associated Press’ Copyright notice at the very bottom:

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

It is the next to the last claim I found troubling. The AP apparently believes copyright allows it to claim that a news story can’t be rewritten. That claim strikes me as rather far reaching because the majority of the story is simply restated facts. I reviewed each paragraph of the story (I’ll simply number them here) to see which parts of the story are ‘unique expressions’ and which are simply statements of fact that are not subject to copyright.

1. Fact. Simple biographical data

2. Fact. Quote from a family spokeperson

3. Fact. Information provided by spokesperson for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

4. Fact. News of strokes previously reported. Kennedy compound location is widely known.

5. Observation by the reporter so not a fact.

6. Fact. Simple biographical data

7 & 8. Quote from another news source so AP has no claim to it. If anything the quote is the copyright of,

8 & 9 Fact. Multiple sources can be found regarding Shriver’s involvement with the Special Olympics.

Eight of the nine paragraphs of this story are factual information that could be obtained from multiple sources and yet the Associated Press claims copyright prohibits anyone from rewriting this story.

So here’s my version of the story rewritten without the Associated Press’ permission:

According to a press release from, Eunice Kennedy Shriver is critical but stable condition at a Cape Cod Hospital. Ms. Shriver is attended by her husband, children and grandchildren. (

Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver was born July 10, 1921 and is a member of the Kennedy family. She is the fifth of nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Kennedy. Senator Edward Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith are her only surviving siblings. (

Senator Kennedy remarked in a video interview that his sister Eunice always “strived to be the best” in a very competitive family. “She in many respects has made such an extraordinary difference in the lives of so many people…”, he said.

Ms Shriver is known for her efforts on behalf of the disabled and founded the Special Olympics which she serves as an honorary chairperson.

You can’t copyright facts nor can you claim copyright limits anyone’s right to restate the facts."

We await the AP’s response.

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Comments on “Rewriting An AP Story Just To Show We Can”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

haha. Obviously you don’t know the concept of “standard copyright notice” on a website, appearing on every page after every article. Mike just happened to pick an item that could easily be re-written, as it contains only very basic information.

Nobody is attempting to copyright facts, Mike is once again desperately trying to spin a molehill into a mountain. I expect links and perhaps 50 more slides at his next presentation about this one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:


They are copyrighting the story as a whole, as presented. Any “facts” or “opinions” that might appear ONLY in their story cannot be reused. You can write another story using the same facts (provided you can come up with the sources).

Since you cannot copyright facts, the whole discussion is remarkably meaningless. LIke I said before, it is a childish attempt to bait AP into an answer, something that I would think would be below Mike and his friends to try.

Can you smell the desperation because AP won’t talk to them anymore? What ever will they write about?

SteelWolf (profile) says:

Always AC

I love how the people most insulting to Mike are the Anonymous Cowards. Such a fitting default name.

The AP has been ridiculously shortsighted, childish, and determined to drive itself to irrelevancy as fast as possible. They deserve to be called out as many times and in as many ways as possible, before their misinformation campaign gets enough traction for Anonymous Cowards like yourself to start claiming AP does have some kind of copyright on facts.

Erik E. (profile) says:


AC said: “Obviously you don’t know the concept of “standard copyright notice” on a website, appearing on every page after every article. Mike just happened to pick an item that could easily be re-written, as it contains only very basic information.”

Obviously you haven’t read the news……. ever. ALL news stories outside the opinion pages are factual stories regurgitating facts and are therefore un-copyrightable. Mike didn’t have to go searching for an article, any random article would suffice.

Urza9814 says:


So apparently when my high school english teacher told me that you have to rewrite things in your own words and cite sources they were encouraging us to violate copyright law?

Yea, the AP is full of shit. If you can’t rewrite things then scholarly papers as we know them would be nonexistant. You couldn’t write a paper about anything at all without every bit of it being your own research.

Michial Thompson (user link) says:

Sad ramblings of a little boy looking for attention

Pretty sad article Mike, I see you have to go to baiting AP to get attention since most of the comments seem to have turned against you.

BTW to all the AC’s out here, not once have I hidden my identity, and rarely do I ever agree with Mikee… Most of his articles do nothing more than twist the truth around to try to further his agenda of a free everything world….

Can’t wait until he turns hypocrite and starts suing others for copying his work

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sad ramblings of a little boy looking for attention

Free everything? Most of what I have seen condemns, or at least cautions against most blind free offers. (Well physical free offers, and ‘hey this is free, now give me something please’). Well who knew it was so easy to be mislead by reading the articles.

R. Miles (profile) says:

Re: Sad ramblings of a little boy looking for attention

Most of his articles do nothing more than twist the truth around to try to further his agenda of a free everything world….
Thank goodness my intelligence doesn’t accept this rhetoric.

I’ve yet to see you prove his articles are wrong.

I don’t agree in some cases either, but most of what he writes is dead on.

Take the blinders off and quit believing the propaganda shoveled to you and you may just see it.

Some of his ideas may be… unique, but don’t discredit them so easily.

To date: I’ve yet to see any distributor fully accept the internet as a tool, but instead uses it as a cash cow. When that fails (and it will always fail), they turn and blame it for their woes.

This is fact, Michial. Not twisted truth.

Kevin Stapp (profile) says:


Many of those posting comments criticizing Mike should instead direct those at me. I wrote it, not Mike. The purpose of this post isn’t to bait AP but to highlight how the AP is attempting to stretch copyright to far beyond the intent of the law. You cannot write an article that is mainly a restatement of public information (facts) then claim copyright forbids anyone from rewriting those facts.

The purpose of this post was to point out how media (not just the AP) is abusing (or at least attempting to abuse) copyright to limit competition and to assert ownership over material they to which they have no legal claim.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Bait away...

So what? Let Mike bait AP. Will they rise (or sink) to the challenge? I doubt it.

They’re officially not discussing their policy anymore, so I would imagine this would preclude them from jumping into the fray.

I would imagine they don’t have many fans left at this point, much like other entities who have opted to maintain profits thru lawsuits. It would be entertaining if they did, if only to further the amount of cluelessness a supposed “higher journalism” entity displays in its pursuit of money for nothing.

What are the benefits of the high road at this point? You obviously won’t find the discourse there as AP has already proven it will play dirtier than anyone else in the field.

The Idiot says:

Michial Thompson

Congratulations! Have a ‘You miss the point!’ award.

Firstly, Mike was freely linked to the story by Kevin in this case.

Secondly, the AP article clearly states that the facts included cannot be rewritten.

And finally, Mike has never said free is always better; he has stated repeatedly that free is better as a part of a business model.

John Croson (user link) says:

I see some parallels...

to the music industry.

The news industry has been suffering as of late, because of the blogosphere, declining readership, etc etc.

If you as a webmaster want to syndicate news from these sources, you must first subscribe. Probably fair, since they do pay to have these stories created…but my syndication produces traffic to their site, which could produce revenue in the way of advertising dollars.

Isn’t it a bit like a recent request from an un-named musician to glean more from the radio stations that play their music?

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