April 7 2009

The Associated Press Targets The Internet As Evil


It would seem that the Associated Press (AP) is insanely short sighted.

At a meeting of the AP, which encompasses approximately 1500 member publications, AP Chairman Dean Singleton talked to the audience about the increasing evils of the Internet, and how their content was being abused by blogs and news aggregation sites.

We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories. We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it any more. AP and its member newspapers must be paid fully and fairly.

While they certainly have every right to protect their intellectual properties, but they are talking about even going after sites like Google News that aggregate multiple news sources into one centralized location.    They are saying that even these types of sites are profiteering off of their copyrighted works, and if they are to continue, they must pay for the use of AP content just as any other news source that reprints their content with permission.

The problem with this whole theory is that sites like Google News simply provide the headline, maybe an image, and usually around one sentence of the story to give you and idea of what it is about.  If you choose to read more of the story, you then click on the link are taking to the original page that presents the story.  Due to the limited amount of the story that ir reprinted, this falls well within the terms of “fair use“, or, as the AP calls it, “misguided legal theories.”

Essentially fair use is the concept that you can reprint things in an article so long as you limit how much of it you copy, and you site the source of the information.  Copying an entire piece, even with a link to the original source would fall outside of the fair use guidelines.  As anyone familiar with Google News knows, they show you a headline, maybe an image and one to two introductory lines from the article. Then, if you are interested in it, you click on it and go to the original piece. Well, it seems the AP no longer wants this to happen unless sites like Google pay them a fee for running those brief intros.

Here’s the back-asswards part of this whole thing. Someone like me has no time to read news unless they go through an aggregator. I don’t have time to go to multiple sources, and by using a service by Google News I do visit a lot of local television sites, smaller town newspapers and so on. In other words, these sites are getting traffic they never would have if it wasn’t for Google doing what they do.  In the AP’s amazing lack of wisdom, they see this as a horrible thing that Google is slapping some ads on those results pages, and that is where their problem is.  It’s a chick and the egg type scenario… I wouldn’t be seeing those ads on Google if I wasn’t coming to their site to look for the news stories that I can then go and read, and, in turn, see the ads of those original sites.

Old media, which the AP is a glowing example of, is in desperate need of money, and they are trying to get it from anywhere they can, even if it means cutting off their nose to spite their face.  Charge Google… Google may drop you… you just lost thousands, if not millions, of potential readers.  Is there not a time where you have to skip making money from a venue to make other money because of that same venue?  Yes, there is, and this is one of those times.

The even sadder part is that it isn’t just Google they want to go after, but also bloggers for quoting their articles.  Well, quoting articles is an age old tradition in journalism, which blogging is an off shoot of.  Sure some bloggers take it too far, but the vast majority don’t.  So why not leave us alone and les us spread your work for even more people to see?  I have no desire to quote entire articles, that would be pointless for someone like me.  I actually already stopped using AP stories due to their plan a few months ago to start charging something like a $1.50 per word for every word you quoted.  I didn’t feel like seeing what their limit would be, so I always look for on-AP stories to quote, and apparently I am going to have to keep that policy in place.

It is time for the AP to grow up and accept the 21st century or this truly will be the end of newspapers as we know it.  So go ahead, AP, keep annoying the people who might be your only salvation and see how far you get.

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