Short Nerd Chief

AP claims web sites have to license 5-word quotations

Posted by Fred on June 19, 2008

Cory Doctorow notes the Associated Press’ claim that you should have to license 5-word quotations:

In the name of “defin[ing] clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt” the Associated Press is now selling “quotation licenses” that allow bloggers, journallers, and people who forward quotations from articles to co-workers to quote their articles. The licenses start at $12.50 for quotations of 5-25 words. The licensing system exhorts you to snitch on people who publish without paying the blood-money, offering up to $1 million in reward money (they also think that “fair use” — the right to copy without permission — means “Contact the owner of the work to be sure you are covered under fair use.”).

When attacked over the plan and its demand that The Drudge Retort remove some unlicensed excerpts, the AP backed down and is reconsidering its position:

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.

That’s all well and good, but what is more worrisome is the claim in the NY Times article that

The A.P.’s effort to impose some guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use,” which holds that copyright owners cannot ban others from using small bits of their works under some circumstances.

No, it won’t, because it can’t. Fair use is a legal doctrine, and the AP can no more redefine what it means than the Times can define libel to mean “a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person, unless it is published by the New York Times.”


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