NPR logo Open Thread: Associated Press v. Bloggers


Open Thread: Associated Press v. Bloggers

The blogosphere is abuzz today with news that the Associated Press wants to define how much of its content bloggers and Web sites can use.

The New York Times is reporting that it all started last week when the A.P. sent a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it remove items that contained A.P. quotes. Word got out and a backlash ensued on the web. On Saturday, the company's vice president and strategy director, Jim Kennedy, told the Times the letter was "heavy-handed" and that the A.P. would rethink its policies toward bloggers.

Kennedy says the company plans to meet with representatives of the Media Bloggers Association in hopes of creating some new guidelines, but for now they have not withdrawn their request for the Drudge Retort remove the items.

"Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see," Kennedy said. "It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context."



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Good for you, Sparky. Funny thing, though: AP doesn't get to set copyright law. Look up the term "fair use" and get back to us.

Sent by Stewart | 3:09 PM | 6-17-2008

I don't think it is much to ask of blogs to list attribution and/or a link to the original content. Bloggers (myself included)essentially need to keep some ethics in mind as well as basic plagiarism guidelines. All the conventional media sources need to worry about is content. As long as AP keeps turning out rich, dynamic quality content, than they don't need to be concerned with how bloggers choose to repackage it.

Sent by Alejandro | 5:17 PM | 6-17-2008

"Fair use" is not copying entire articles. There is something about Internet that makes people think that once it's online, it's free for anyone to use as they wish, and I think Stewart and Alejandro are representing that mindset.

I'm a photographer, and at first I had no watermarks on my photos posted online. If those who stole my photos to repost on forums and mailing lists had included a photo credit and a link back to my site, I would have been more pleased than annoyed. But that never ever happened. And I recall that when I started putting a watermark on the photos, I had a message on a forum from one of the worst thieves telling me she would no longer go to my site. That was my laugh for the week (it still works now): it was as if a merchant is supposed to be angry when a shoplifter announces she is no longer "patronizing" his establishment.

The worst now are certain sites that steal material (typically photos and videos) from others, repackage it, and try to get you to pay for the privilege. The noive of these people!

Back to the AP story:
When you post an entire article, with or without attribution and links to the source, you are stealing. Afterwards, how bad is the stealing? I think it depends on the context: a small forum or mailing list? OK. A major website (like Drudge)? Not OK.

Sent by Marc Naimark | 3:15 AM | 6-18-2008

I'd frown upon simply copying an article as well - it's a bit disingenuous to the person who put the time and effort into gathering the information. Simply linking to stories isn't exactly blogging either, though using certain excerpts to reinforce your point is certainly acceptable (so long as you attribute them).

That said, on a few of the blog sites I visit regularly, I've noticed a tendency to simply "link-scoop", claiming finding some story written by someone else as news worthy in of itself.

While it is sometimes nice to browse around and find articles you may have not seen otherwise, I'd rather read original work. Especially on major sites like Daily Kos or Drudge Retort - where it's more or less expected you'll have some standard for your posts, as opposed to a singular blog page which functions more like a diary dump.

Sent by Leigh Cutler | 8:19 AM | 6-18-2008

If the Associated Press were as careful about honoring other people's copyright as they are about protecting their own, I would have more sympathy for them. As Marc points out, there is a school of thought on the Internet that says that if it's out on the Web it is there for the taking. The Associated Press has been picking up quotes from blogs and incorporating them into their stories without providing either source attribution or even a linked URL (which is what they are asking for when comes to use of AP content). The Associated Press would be better served by engaging with those who are using their content rather than pontificating about what is and is not appropriate usage. To use an old saying, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".

Sent by Jill | 12:40 PM | 6-18-2008

Marc: I am a freelance music writer, and my work is used without attribution all the time. I have seen literally dozens of pages on sites like eBay, GEMM and elsewhere that have simply cut and pasted my reviews -- invariably without my name attached -- into their sale pages. Furthermore, I'm one of the executors of my late father-in-law's photo archives, and I've often seen his photos of artists from the '50s and '60s folk revival used online without permission. I am fully aware of what you speak, and I'll thank you not to make misrepresentations about my "mindset."


Respectfully, Mark, your comments suggest you're not quite up to speed on the details of the case in question. The AP was complaining NOT about the copying and pasting of "entire articles" -- which I believe we can agree is not fair use -- but with seven specific QUOTATIONS from AP articles, ranging in length from 39 to 79 words.

39 words. To give you an idea, Marc, your first paragraph up there is also 39 words. The idea that a brief quotation for the purpose of commentary is protected under fair use guidelines is so well established that boilerplate copyright info in the front matter of books often includes phrases like "except for brief quotations for the purpose of commentary." Because otherwise, just about all book reviews would be infringing on the books' copyrights.

Your analogy to your photos doesn't really apply here: if people were reproducing a tiny snippet -- say 1/10th or 1/20th-- of your photo in the context of discussing the photo's subject, that would be an apposite analogy to the AP's overreaction.

Regardless, what I said still stands: the AP, nor you, nor I, get to establish what is legal in regards to copyrights.

One more point of clarification is perhaps necessary, based on your last paragraph. The AP was not asking the Drudge Report to remove these small quotations, but the Drudge RETORT, a small left-leaning blog that I had never even heard of before this kerfuffle (and I read a lot of small left-leaning blogs!) that is way way closer to "small forum" than "major website." (Oh dear, I just quoted four words from you. Please don't sue.)

Sent by Stewart | 1:32 PM | 6-18-2008

OK. I was apparently in error.

And I was of course not accusing any particular individual (except the person who "threatened" me with the sanction of NOT stealing my photos anymore).

Sent by Marc Naimark | 4:49 AM | 6-19-2008