Neville Hobson

AP snippets and a big red flag

It’s hard to see what’s driving the thinking at the Associated Press in light of the storm of anger they have whipped up as they implement what looks to be a “pay-as-you-quote” system that you should comply with if you want to use any AP-distributed content on your website or blog.

And I mean any content, even five words. That’ll cost you $12.50 according to AP’s licensing fees on iCopyright.com as the screenshot suggests, which shows rates for one particular AP story.

This may have been in place for a while although it looks to have been implemented pretty recently, the impression I get from reading a post by Patrick Nielsen Hayden:

The Associated Press, having already announced its intention to harass bloggers who publish snippets as short as 39 words from AP stories, has now published a web form through which intimidated parties can give the AP money in return for “permission” to publish as few as five words.

Whether this is old or new, it’s a big red flag that the AP is now waving in the blogosphere. This extends the kerfuffle that blew up last week concerning take-down notices the AP sent to a blogger, an action which sparked loud protest.

Reading a story on Google News (an AP story, as it happens) published late yesterday that summarizes things so far, I’m struck by an astonishing viewpoint from Jim Kennedy, AP’s director of strategic planning:

[…] Kennedy said the AP had both a journalistic concern about preventing AP news from being quoted out of context and also a business concern about protecting the value of AP’s news from being diluted if its key elements are made available from places that aren’t licensed.

“We need to protect our content, no matter who’s using it, but we also recognize that the bloggers perform a really important function on the Internet in terms of increasing the engagement of the audience online, and we want to facilitate that,” Kennedy said.

So the AP recognizes the role bloggers can play in engaging with people, and want to facilitate that role.

Yet they have a peculiar way of showing it:

  1. Serving take-down notices to a blogger for quoting snippets of content which the blogger believes is under US fair use practice (and which the AP says isn’t).
  2. Charging you a minimum of $12.50 if you do want to quote a snippet of content, via the hurdles of filling out a web form with payment.
  3. Lots of talk about protecting content and places that aren’t licensed, odd signals to give out that seem to me to be in conflict with what they’re saying about facilitation.

(I suppose I ought to be thinking twice about quoting from the AP story on Google News, above. But I believe it would be covered under fair dealing practice.)

I wrote about all this yesterday, concluding that if the AP would work with the blogosphere to develop a set of usage guidelines for people wanting to quote from AP content, that surely must be a good step forward.

More’s the pity, then, that it looks far from clear that the AP wishes to do this.

The good news is you have plenty of other places from which to source your snippets.

The loser is the Associated Press. And no one will care.

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