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AP Wants to School Bloggers on Copyright Law

By Keith Regan
Jun 16, 2008 2:48 PM PT

Seeking to protect its own business model, The Associated Press is hoping to clarify what constitutes fair use of the content is publishes online, with plans to lay out guidelines for bloggers on how much content they can quote.

AP Wants to School Bloggers on Copyright Law

The AP, which bills itself as the world's largest and oldest news-gathering organization, hopes to bring clarity to the "fair use" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In doing so, the wire service would also be protecting its core business in a rapidly evolving media landscape.

While many bloggers quote briefly from news stories and then link to sites where the full story can be found, some blogs -- designed mainly to become landing pages for advertising -- are known to borrow the entire text of an article from another source.

Meeting With Bloggers

The AP moved to clarify how much of its content can be used without constituting copyright infringement after it was revealed that it asked the Drudge Retort to remove six stories The AP felt quoted too extensively from its own news stories.

One of the stories in question referred to an AP story that included a quote from Hillary Clinton and a link to the original article. The Drudge Retort has removed that story and replaced it with a note stating that the content was removed at the request of the copyright owner.

"The Associated Press is committed to having a positive, productive relationship with bloggers," AP spokesperson Paul Colford told the E-Commerce Times. "This effort will include a meeting this week with the head of the Media Bloggers Association."

In some ways, the Drudge Retort is not a traditional blog because it is not written by an individual but instead is a site to which some 8,000 registered users post headlines and links.

Boycotts and Blog Posts

Bloggers have responded with ferocity in some quarters to The AP's initiative. The TechCrunch blog will not post stories based on or link to AP stories any longer, Michael Arrington, the founder and owner of the site, said in a Washington Post article Monday.

Other bloggers are more sanguine about the move, saying they already take care to quote only limited parts of stories and provide a link to the original source article when thy do so.

"This ruling isn't going to change the way we blog," Dan Chmielewski, a blogger with The Liberal OC, a political blog, told the E-Commerce Times. "If we comment about or remark about a third-party story, we'll always provide a link to the story. We almost never lift a whole story and typically credit articles, but not always photos.

"The AP ruling wouldn't affect us, but there are some conservative blogs here that take whole media feeds from multiple mainstream media outlets," he added. "The ruling would affect them more, but it would be up to AP to aggressively enforce this new standard."

Headed to Court?

Another political blogger, Claire Celsi, who writes at TheDemoMemo, removed a blog post after being contacted by The AP, which she claims threatened legal action over the post, which referenced information from a second-party source on AP polling on the presidential race.

"I 'unposted' it, which is something I definitely do not take lightly, but felt I did not have a choice," Celsi told the E-Commerce Times. "I try to source the material on my blog as much as possible. This is indeed a very hot topic. ... Some in the blogosphere are talking about boycotting AP material. I don't think that will work. I actually think someone should challenge it in court and get it settled once and for all."

Indeed, it may take a court to clarify the DMCA fair use issues raised by such blog posts. In the case of the Drudge Retort posts, story snippets were as short as 33 words. That's much longer than many items widely believed to enjoy DMCA protection, such as the snippets of content that search engines return after queries are posted.

Further complicating the debate is the fact that The AP often publishes rewrites of content from newspapers that subscribe to its news feeds.

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