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.

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  1. identicon
    PPNSteve, 3 Aug 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.

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