Fair use, copyright and big media
I’ve spoken before about big media taking the work of bloggers and those they deem “amateur”, and using their work without permission, compensation or even acknowledgement. In the eyes of big media, this is perfectly legitimate.
Now it would appear that when “amateurs” use the work of big media, this is somehow a terrible scourge. It is plagiarism. Even when bloggers use only a small fraction of the original work, link through to the official location of the original work, and fully attribute the author and publisher of the original work. To those in the “professional” sphere, this is an evil that needs to be stamped out.
Even though it fully complies with both the letter and the spirit of the “fair use” provisions of domestic and international copyright laws.
Associated Press have decided that the law no longer applies to them, that anybody quoting from an Associated Press story is guilty of plagiarising, and if you wish to quote so much as five words from one of their stories, you must pay them cold hard cash. Thanks to Writer’s Blog for the heads up on this story.
Put simply, AP do not have a leg to stand on with this one. The fair use doctrine is clear and long established. They may succeed in frightening a few people with threatening letters, demands for payment and complaints to ISPs, but the instant this gets anywhere near a court of law, they will lose, and lose badly.
In one sense, they have won – many bloggers are no longer quoting AP, but not out of fear. Out of choice. A Pyrrhic victory, as AP have lost one hell of a lot of public goodwill over this issue, and are looking increasingly foolish. For a news resource, staffed by journalists, to attack the fundamental rights of freedom of speech, opinion and expression, moreover for them to attack a research resource such as the fair use doctrine – it is simply insanity.
I don’t often use AP on this site, but on my personal site I very often quote news stories that have come from AP to other news vendors. I am with TechCrunch on this issue. AP is now banned. I won’t use a story if I see that it has come from the Associated Press. I won’t comment on it, link to it etc.
A boycott site with petition has been set up. I would encourage you to sign up, and then use alternative news sources on your blog, such as Reuters. And check out some of the reaction to this story – at-Largely has a good summary of the backlash against AP.