Associated Press Defines Fair Use?

I don’t think so.

While browsing Dark Skies Blog, I came across this post. The subject matter of the post didn’t interest me as much as the closing remark:

Since this is an AP Poll and since AP charges by the word for excerpting or reprinting their news copy, I will provide only a LINK.

I posted a few comments addressing this, but they have since disappeared. I’m not going to jump to any conclusions; I’ll wait to hear from Dark Skies on that. In the mean time, I’ll just assume it’s some sort of technical glitch.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post. As I mentioned at Dark Skies Blog, I don’t believe that A.P. has the authority to define Fair Use or copyright infringement to suit their personal interests, absent a court ruling.

Mike found this for me through a quick Google search:

In June 2008 Associated Press stated it would be defining guidelines on how many words from its articles and broadcasts could be excerpted by internet bloggers and Web sites without infringing on its copyright. Its first initiative was a letter to Rogers Cadenhead’s “Drudge Retort” news links site requesting the removal of items quoting from 39 to 79 words of AP articles. After an outcry from bloggers, A.P. admitted its letter to Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed.”[7] It later clarified that it would challenge blog postings “when we feel the use is more reproduction than reference, or when others are encouraged to cut and paste.” It then retreated from that position, announcing it would be reviewing its standards.[8]

Wikipedia – Associated Press – Bloggers and Fair Use

(This is one of the things I posted at Dark Skies Blog that seems to have gone missing, so you can see why I doubt that it was actually deleted.)

I have a feeling that a mysterious cloud of silence is going to fall on this issue, and that we won’t be hearing anything else from A.P. about it. I’m actually very surprised that they ever tried this to begin with. Journalists are the last people I would expect to take such an approach. Surely, they understand as well as anyone the potential impact of such action.

On Saturday, The A.P. retreated. Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., said in an interview that the news organization had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed” and that The A.P. was going to rethink its policies toward bloggers.

The quick about-face came, he said, because a number of well-known bloggers started criticizing its policy, claiming it would undercut the active discussion of the news that rages on sites, big and small, across the Internet.

New York Times

Indeed it would.

Like I stated at Dark Skies Blog, I recently posted an excerpt from an A.P. article and I will continue to do so any time I feel like it, until a court ruling is issued against it.

But Rogers Cadenhead, the owner of the Drudge Retort and several other Web sites, said the issue goes far beyond one site. “There are millions of people sharing links to news articles on blogs, message boards and sites like Digg. If The A.P. has concerns that go all the way down to one or two sentences of quoting, they need to tell people what they think is legal and where the boundaries are.”

New York Times

While I appreciate Cadenhead’s attempt at diplomacy here, I’m not really interested in what A.P. thinks is legal. They do not get to create their own personal version of Fair Use and impose it on the rest of the world. No-one does. But the point is now moot:

After that, however, the news association convened a meeting of its executives at which it decided to suspend its efforts to challenge blogs until it creates a more thoughtful standard.

“We don’t want to cast a pall over the blogosphere by being heavy-handed, so we have to figure out a better and more positive way to do this,” Mr. Kennedy said.


“We are not trying to sue bloggers,” Mr. Kennedy said. “That would be the rough equivalent of suing grandma and the kids for stealing music. That is not what we are trying to do.”

New York Times

I’m not sure how I feel about being the grandma in that analogy, but the point is that the rumors circulating the internet are just that – rumors. A.P. is not charging by the word for excerpting its material. In fact, the dispute appears to be over. And I said all that just to say this:

Quote to your heart’s content, fellow bloggers. It’s free of charge!

[Update: The official word is that my comments are no longer welcome at Dark Skies Blog. I’m not sure what the problem is; I was merely trying to reassure Dark Skies that it is OK to quote from A.P. articles. Since Dark Skies is described as a “news blog”, I assumed the updated information would be welcome. Apparently not. It seems that Dark Skies only wants to report a slanted version of “the news” and refuses to tolerate correction. The upside is that this has inspired another post for Rambling On. Stay tuned!]

10 responses to “Associated Press Defines Fair Use?

  • Mike

    Bravo 🙂

    Good post, Honey. And as you know, I agree with every word.

  • Lottie

    Thanks. Now go and quote something. 😛

  • Mike

    Now go and quote something.


  • Lottie

    Careful, I might charge you by the word for that.

  • Barbara

    Thanks for commenting at my blog. It seemed an amazingly ham-fisted attempt to monetize their content in a way that is contrary to common sense and to law.

    It would be interesting to know what AP thinks, but I wouldn’t follow guidelines if they were more restrictive than the law. (Though, of course, the law on fair use is very much subject to interpretation.)

    The most recent annual report on State of the News Media says the newsroom is actually adapting to the new digital world more creatively than other parts of the news business. How much do you want to bet this knuckleheaded move came from the business side?

    Also, thanks for the comment – I’ve enjoyed reading around your blog. We have a similar passion for crime fiction! I like your exploration of why it’s worth reading. And agree.

  • Lottie

    Hi, Barbara! Thanks so much for commenting and for the link. I like checking out all available sources.

    How much do you want to bet this knuckleheaded move came from the business side?

    That’d be a sucker’s bet! 😉

    Thanks for the nice comments about my blog as well. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it.

    Stop by any time.

  • Mike

    How much do you want to bet this knuckleheaded move came from the business side?

    Most knuckleheaded ideas originate with business, full stop.

  • Bill Dupuy

    I question whether Associated Press actually has much say in the matter. These are the reasons:

    (1) Much of the material Associated Press runs is taken from its member newspapers and publications. As soon as the member generates material, “Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created,” according to the Copyright Office Thus, with material picked up from members, the original copyright rests with them, not Associated Press.

    (2) Associated Press would be able to acquire the original copyright from the member source, but it takes written documentation and registration with the copyright office. It’s unlikely, however, that the Washington Post is going to transfer all of its rights in full.

    (3) Associated Press would be able to “share” the copyright under transfer rules, but it must have an agreement with the original author to do so. Just asking to use and redistribute the material shouldn’t be sufficient.

    **(My broadcast organization is a “subscriber member” of the Associated Press. Here is the total sum of all our membership agreement has to say about AP’s right to use my material:

    **”Subscriber shall, without cost to (AP), promptly make available to (AP) …. all information original to the Subscribe in all forms gathered by Subscriber that is spontaneous in its origin, for use in news report(s) of AP and its subsidiaries.”

    **That’s it. No request to “share” copyright.

    Associated Press may place the copyright notice on material I and other subscriber members turn over under our agreement, but it is meaningless. We’ve simply granted them a license to use it, not to share in the copyright.

    I may place a copyright notice on any material I get from an associate and I may do it forever. But it has no meaning. Thus, the Associated Press notice on material picked up from the Washington Post similarly has no meaning.

    The Copyright Office has no means or authority or desire to enforce the notion of copyrighted material. It is the concern of the original author who may, or may not, call on a trespasser to cease and desist.

    My conclusion: Member subscribers of Associated Press have not taken steps to tell their press association to stop “pretending” to have the copyright authority over material they supply AP. But that’s OK. They still own the copyright anyway. It cannot be taken away. By the same token, AP has oversteped in claiming rights they do not have.

  • Lottie

    Thank you for all the information, Bill. I had a tiny suspicion along these lines, but didn’t know nearly enough to try and include it in this post. Thank you for providing the details.

    I just finished reading your post entitled, More on AP vs bloggers. It’s very good! I nearly cheered out loud after reading the closing bit:

    Meanwhile, the folk at PBS Idea Lab agree with my first post that Associated Press has no claim to “Hot News Misappropriation” and probably not to simple copyright infringement either. To AP’s offer to set up guidelines for bloggers, the Idea Lab author writes:

    “While AP is entitled to issue a set of guidelines for the use of its articles, these guidelines are not legally enforceable and they cannot narrow the scope of what is permissible under the fair use doctrine. The blogging community needs to be careful not to allow these guidelines to become a de facto set of norms that constrain the permissible uses of news content.”


    Thanks again for commenting, Bill. I’m glad you stopped by.

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