Over the last few days, the Associated Press has caused quite a stir in the blogosphere, strong arming bloggers for doing what they do best – promoting other content, and then back peddling in apology mode after the repercussions reverberated through the blogosphere. Since Friday they have went from “Say hello to my little friend”, to “Can’t we all get along”. Or maybe not. It seems that while apologetic in tone, the position and intentions of the AP has not changed much since their initial statements of last week.
The spirit of digital media, the growth of blogging and the new mechanics of information dissemination is predicated on quoting (even partial copying) and linking by bloggers and websites. However, the AP went on the offensive last week, threatening to litigate the Drudge Retort (yes Retort not Report, different site), for including quotes and links to AP content, and then backing off a bit after feeling ‘a disturbance in the force’, a/k/a the power of the blogosphere.
In a NYTimes article today, Jim Kennedy, Vice President & Strategy Director stated:
“Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see,” he said. “It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context.”
“As content creators, we firmly believe that everything we create, from video footage all the way down to a structured headline, is creative content that has value,”
As a content creator myself, I couldn’t agree more. Content creators should have the right to protect their copyrights and assets. The point that Kennedy & the AP misses here is that the exceprts and links from blogs and other sites only increases that value. How can they not understand that so much progression in information dissemination is being driven by an increasingly “open source” world.
But the real issue at hand is AP’s clear and willing desire to set and litigate against standards that go above and beyond the fair use doctrine within US Copyright law.
A description of fair use from the US Copyright office:
Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
- the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- the nature of the copyrighted work;
- amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
- the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The distinction between “fair use” and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
I’m trying to stay objective on this topic. I am a supporter of the fair use doctrine, I am also a supporter of content creators’ rights. However, should the AP leverage their financial wherewithal to continue down the path of muscling bloggers to recind quotes and links to content, the equivalent of the RIAA suing grandmas, little kids and homeless people, they will lose the support of bloggers the world over, who may also stop supporting the major news outlets who purchase content from AP. This support has fueled shifts in media consumption, search engine visibility, and general transparency and distribution of information – a major consumer benefit. So hence the AP’s desire to define and interpret fair use wages a war against bloggers, and the spirit of digital media itself.