AP tries to rein in the bloggers

They’re claiming that links to Associated Press stories violate fair use:

Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.

Asked if that stance went further than The A.P. had gone before, he said, “That’s right.” The company envisions a campaign that goes far beyond The A.P., a nonprofit corporation. It wants the 1,400 American newspapers that own the company to join the effort and use its software.

“If someone can build multibillion-dollar businesses out of keywords, we can build multihundred-million businesses out of headlines, and we’re going to do that,” Mr. Curley said. The goal, he said, was not to have less use of the news articles, but to be paid for any use.

As Ed Morrissey notes, “the AP doesn’t get to determine what “fair use” means.” That’s for Congress and the courts. Ultimately, I think this means little for Joe Blogger or Joe Gigantic Search EngineCo. Why? Because to have any teeth the AP will have to sue, and if they sue, they run the distinct risk of the courts expanding, not limiting, the definition of fair use. I am willing to bet you several thousand dollars that the AP doesn’t have anything approaching an accurate estimation of what kind of revenues they’d realize if people actually bought blockquoting licenses from them. Put a risk of losing existing fair use protection against an uncertain reward, and you’ve got what amounts to a giant flashing sign that says “don’t overplay your hand here, buster.”

(link via Sullivan, who does not yet charge for content)

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  1. Matt said...

    didn’t the AP already try this?  Like 90 years ago against INS?  I can’t remember contracts law for the bar exam tomorrow, but I have no problem bringing up copyright cases I read 2 years ago.  Its not fair.

  2. Bill B. said...

    As Bill Maher said, “unlike in Cronkite’s day, today’s news has to make a profit like all the other divisions in a media conglomerate.”

    “Not everything in America has to make a profit.”

  3. Brandon Isleib said...

    So if the AP registered with Google Ads to display links on random blog sites, would that count as a blogger link and give the AP virtual free advertising?

    That would be hilarious and headshakingly sad all at once.

  4. Michael said...

    I’ve seen this wind blowing for a while:

    The old newspapermen of America believe the way to save their old-fashioned living is to take the stance that even their facts are copyrightable.

    Of course, this is laughable and just doesn’t seem to match up with any area of actual law. Hell, they don’t even seem to know what’s good for their own business – people who know anything about the internet spend enormous amounts of time and effort trying to get Google to send more traffic – and AP wants to stop it?

    Newspapers are to 2009 as trains were to 1964, and this is akin to the railroads attempting to copyright the wheel.

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