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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.

Filed Under: blogs, drudge retort, fair use, rogers cadenhead, snippets
Companies: associated press


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  1. identicon
    Big Dragon, 16 Jun 2008 @ 8:29am

    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?

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