Bloggers and the Associated Press: the Past and the Future - Bring in the Lawyers
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In 2008 the Associated Press sent six Digital Millennium Copyright Act Takedown Notices to The Drudge Retort. The pieces in question borrowed between 35 and 65 words of Associated Press materials, mainly quotes and titles. Each one was cited properly back to the Associated Press's website with a link. None of them was substantially made up of these quotes. Most were editorial content written about the stories in question. Given all of this information, it does not take a lawyer to see that this is clearly fair use.
As a matter of fact, it didn't. This request set off a firestorm in blogs far and wide about the takedown requests. Soon enough, the Associated Press was taking back the threats of lawsuits, and "revising its guidelines."
The Ironic Part Here
It is worth noting that these notices are ironic because the Associated Press takes whole pieces from the RSS feeds of bloggers to offer to their members for publication. Don't bother going back, you need that correctly. They sued a blog over using 35 properly cited words -- while they take whole pieces off of blogs for their members' use without compensating them.
Apparently, their position is that the protection of copyright only extends to their own members. Later in that some year, they tried to instate a pay-to-quote system that started with as few as five words, at a rate of $12.50.These two actions caused many bloggers to boycott linking to, or using, materials from the Associated Press at all.
Where Do We Go From Here?
That's a good question. Here are a few ways it could play out.
As prominent bloggers and blog networks gain revenue, they begin to counter sue the Associated Press for using their articles. The Associated Press responds, and the face of copyright law is radically altered. Depending on who has better lawyers, the result could make the field much more open, or fair use could die out.
Newspapers, on the verge of extinction as a medium, finally decide that they need to work with bloggers in order to stay alive. Linking and cross-quoting become a generally accepted practice. Online news sites that act like SEO black holes are looked down upon until policies change. Yes, this means that proper linking and citations will be a must, but a set of online citation standards is established.
Riled by the Associated Press and its legal attacks, the bloggers of the world band together to create one unified syndicated service. This allows only blogs to share content. The speed of this sharing, and exclusion of Associated Press member blogs, makes bloggers more timely, and by volume alone, outpaces traditional media. These outlets begin to die off.
Of course, one or all of things could happen. It is not inconceivable that a volley of lawsuits in both directions could alter copyright law, forcing bloggers to unite. The then-dying print papers could find themselves forced to collaborate with the bloggers. However it plays out, it seems unlikely that we'll ever go back to reading the news in quite the same way.
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