Anyone who has taken a high school English class has learned a bit about attribution and fair use when quoting someone else’s work. If you include a direct quote from another work, you cite that work as your source. The number of words you can quote is governed by the fair use doctrine, which is generally construed to protect a modest quotation that is too short or insignificant to affect the market value of the source.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press (AP), a worldwide news organization, filed seven DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown requests against the Drudge Retort blog (a parody of the better known Drudge Report) for allowing people to post material from or links to AP in violation of AP’s copyright and/or the fair use doctrine.
The Drudge Retort is run by Rogers Cadenhead, upon whose head the full wrath of the AP landed. Hardly a fair fight. Scary, in fact. An organization as large as the Associated Press tries to protect its increasingly outdated business model by bullying a small, independent blogger. Even journalists who retired ten years ago know that publishing profits lie primarily in the advertising, which increases in value as readership increases, and in this blogging age, readership is driven by links. In other words, we the readers drive other readers to AP material, thereby increasing its readership and value.
Skipping past the legal technicalities of copyright and fair use, the gist of this story is that AP and Cadenhead have gotten together and worked out their differences. AP admitted it might have been a bit “heavy handed.” However, it is still clinging to its own definition of fair use, and its posted fee schedule* indicates that fair use of their material is limited to a mere four (4) words. After that, the fees kick in. Violators are guilty of “piracy,” according to the fine print at the bottom of the page. RIAA, anyone?
Still unresolved is AP’s position that a news story’s headline and lede (usually the first sentence or paragraph) have absolute copyright protection. In a traditional news story, the lede includes the 5 Ws and the H — Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. That’s all you really need to know about any event. Everything that follows just fleshes out the story. Heads are, or used to be, an art in themselves, written by someone other than the reporter, someone particularly skilled in writing succinct, attention-getting one-liners that fit within the space allotted. Arguably, anyone who quotes the head and/or lede of a news story has stolen its commercial value.
(There are no direct quotes or live links to AP in this post, but if this blog suddenly disappears, check with AP, just in case.)
*current rates per word for licensing and republishing an excerpt from an AP story are listed as:
5-25 _______$ 12.50
26-50 ______$ 17.50
51-100 _____$ 25.00
101-250 ____$ 50.00
251 and up __$100.00
as shown here:
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