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The Death Rattle of the Associated Press

In yet another Main Stream Media Meltdown is the story of the AP filing DMCA takedown notices against Rogers Cadenhead and his community site Drudge Retort.

The Associated Press is an news organization whose function in life was to take original reporting from its members, homogenize it, (not unlike the production of Kopi Luwak, a coffee bean that is processed by running it through the digestive tract of an Indonisian marsupial, harvested from the resulting dung, and then offered for sale at a premium price as being unique) and offer it back to its members to fill in the spaces in local newspapers, whose own management think that news from elsewhere, having been stripped of origination credits, and ‘claimed’ to be accurate because it is the AP, is a good idea. I say ‘claimed’ as there is no link or credits to the original reports, which on the internet is silly, and is at the heart of this nonsense.

At one time back in the dark ages before the Internet, this was a good idea, as it gave local newspapers access to world events and reporting it could otherwise not afford. However with the Internet, the plethora of publishing tools, worldwide availability and the hyperlink, the AP is another business whose foundation is crumbling in the flood waters of websites, personal publishing, and the hyperlink.

According to this posting Rogers received this nugget:

AP feels otherwise. In a June 3 letter, AP’s Intellectual Property Governance Coordinator Irene Keselman told me:

… you purport that the Drudge Retort’s users reproduce and display AP headlines and leads under a fair use defense. Please note that contrary to your assertion, AP considers that the Drudge Retort users’ use of AP content does not fall within the parameters of fair use. The use is not fair use simply because the work copied happened to be a news article and that the use is of the headline and the first few sentences only. This is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of "fair use." AP considers taking the headline and lede of a story without a proper license to be an infringement of its copyrights, and additionally constitutes "hot news" misappropriation.

There are a couple of things wrong here. First this is an opinion by AP, (opinions being like assholes, everyone has one and some of them stink, you decide) based on the theory that Fair Use does not apply to the AP. Everything that is published in the United States is covered by copyright, and is also available for Fair Use. There is still no definite answer as to which percentage of an item consists of Fair Use, as some items cannot be easily chopped up into discrete bits such a photos, but a portion of a textual piece has been for many years even before the internet, has been used for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

“hot news misappropriation”

The second thing that AP asserts is “hot news misappropriation” What the fuck is that? Is this like calling a shopping mall a Regional Lifestyle Center?
My opinion, is that this is a bullshit semantic device to try to prop up the argument that the AP is not subject to the same Fair Use rules as every other organization or person in the United States. The French news agency AFP tried this with Google some time back, and it didn’t work.

Quoting a portion of a work is explicitly covered under the Section 107 Fair Use Provision of US Copyright Law. The bonus of the Internet is the ability to hyperlink to the original work. This lets you know that someone has done their homework, allowing you to decide whether or not the criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research, is true in as much as can be presented.
Let me give you an example. Here is US Copyright website Fair Use Statement.

Section 107 Fair Use Provision of US Copyright Law.

One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the Copyright Act (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:


the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

the nature of the copyrighted work;

amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The distinction between “fair use” and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
Source: US Copyright Office Website

News by its very nature is nothing more than a record of events, as told by people who have experienced it on site. News used to be the bailiwick of journalists, whose desire to report events was their calling. With the rise of aggregating news organizations like the AP, UPI, Reuters and even AFP, there was a period of trust in these organizations in giving us the whole story.

The internet has changed this. We are not confined to single sources for news and information. Here are some other thoughts on this
Jeff Jarvis, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Scott Rosenburg, Mathew Ingram

Organizations like the Associated Press need to change, or they will become a quaint exhibit in the Newseum
(Update Hot News Misappropriation is a legal concept) Hat tip to Matt Ingram. I still think is is a bullshit term.

4 comments to The Death Rattle of the Associated Press

  • Rogers did not post enough information for any of us to form a knowledgeable opinion. What he’s done is trigger a pile on.

    AP could be wrong, could be right — but we don’t have all sides of the story, we don’t even have the 7 posts, or have read all the communications.

    I would think that people would appreciate getting all sides of the story before forming an opinion, wouldn’t you?

  • I used to work at the AP in NYC (2000-2005), and I’ve met Jim Kennedy many times. Although they’ve earned my ire over this whole thing, I’ve gotta point out your first paragraph is way off base. The PRIMARY purpose of the AP, from it’s inception as a not-for-profit organization (it’s still one today), was to field reporters to gather/write the news, and distribute it to the AP membership. The business of accepting content from members, scrubbing it, then sharing it with the remaining members came along later. And it was the members who wanted it. And it has rules, like one paper’s ‘exclusive’ can’t be sent to a nearby paper, a system known as ‘outing’.

    While you’re clearly on the ‘right’ side of this DMCA issue, your arguments are tainted by the inaccuracies, and somewhat rabid tone, of your first paragraph.

  • Spinlock,

    Only somewhat rabid? sigh..
    I was shooting for fulminating vituperation.

  • Raptor

    “…the AP is another business whose foundation is crumbling in the flood waters of websites, personal publishing, and the hyperlink.”

    Yeah, right. Now any semiliterate asshole like you can blather all over the entire earth whatever nonsense his imagination can fabricate.

    Dream on, sport. The AP will be around long after you and your drivel have melted into the black hole of cyberspace.