AP’s roundabout silencing of bloggers

23 Jun 2008

The colossal worldwide blogging community embraces the practice of quoting other people or sources, as long as you attribute the quotes and link back to the source. While this has worked well so far, this method is just not cricket according to Associated Press.

AP settled its dispute with news site Drudge Report after filing takedown requests last week in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This incident concerned stories containing between 33 and 79 words which were taken from AP reports. However, the impact of this is only beginning to affect the blogosphere.

“I’m glad my personal legal dispute with the AP is resolved, thanks to the help of the Media Bloggers Association, but it does nothing to resolve the larger conflict between how AP interprets fair use and how thousands of people are sharing news on the web,” blogged Rogers Cadenhead of the Drudge Retort editorial panel.

AP “considers the matter closed” and has set the wheels in motion to rock the blogosphere by demanding bloggers pay US$2.50 per word if they quote more than four words from an AP story, just like traditional news organisations do.

On her site, blogger and syndicated columnist Michelle Marking referred to this as the “Associated Press’s heavy-handed attempt to bully bloggers”, and went on to say it should be tit for tat, adding that she calculated she was owed about US$130,000 for all the times AP stories had quoted her writing.

“Now it’s time to turn the tables. If your blog or blog commenters have ever been quoted by the AP, listen up: it’s time to prepare a bill and demand payment,” said Malkin.

“Unlike the AP, bloggers appreciate getting linked and excerpted. That is how we roll in the 21st century.”

Malkin urged other bloggers to send fake bills to AP based on how many words the news agency had used from their sites to demonstrate how unfeasible this policy is. It’s also hoped this will show how the AP’s stance goes against the concept of new media and how people now consume and produce information.

When it comes to living side by side with bloggers on the web, maybe news agencies like AP should consider a different approach. When siliconrepublic.com talked to inventor of the web, Tim Berners Lee, he spoke of how the Semantic Web can be a platform for maintaining and spreading good media standards.

The University of Southampton, which has Berners Lee as chair of computer science, is currently collaborating with the Media Standards Trust (MST) (formed by agencies including AP and Reuters) to do just this.

“What they are doing is putting together a Semantic Web standard so they can mark a newsfeed, even if it’s inside a blog, and say ‘This is from Reuters’ or marking it to say ‘This is an eye-witness report, I wrote it and I was there.’

“Or perhaps saying ‘This is a photo I took and it has not been altered in any way. I have not added more smoke or bombs – I haven’t airbrushed anything in or out’,” added Berners Lee.

By Marie Boran