Can you link to an AP story and include a brief excerpt? Yes, we can — but don’t

The question: Can you link to an AP story and include a brief excerpt?

Why it’s news: Late last week, a portion of the blogosphere blew-up when the AP sent a takedown notice to the website Drudge ReTort (a Drudge Report parody site) asking it to remove some links to AP stories that included quotations from 39-79 words. After the near-universal lambast, the NYTimes reports today that the AP has backed down. The paper says AP hopes to come up with something that will accomodate bloggers (it is meeting with the Media Bloggers Association — I’m a member), but Jim Kennedy, vp and strategy director of the AP, told the NYT, “As content creators, we firmly believe that everything we create, from video footabe all the way down to a structured headline, is creative content that has value.”

The answer*: Yes you can link to an AP story. You CAN’T reproduce a story, but you can summarize it. Furthermore, linking to an AP story provides value too AP and the AP member’s site to which you are linking. I’m not a lawyer, but I know enough about this issue to question whether or not a “link” and brief excerpt from a story — especially one that you are, in essence, “enabling,” “reviewing,” or even “recommending” a visit to the article — is fair-use. More importantly, to win a lawsuirt, the AP would have to show your link harmed them or their members. Sending traffic to or providing an SEO-boosting link to their websites is a benefit to AP, not a harm.

What will happen? Jeff Jarvis is calling on bloggers to stop linking to AP. Michael Arrington agrees. It will be hard for me to avoid linking to some of their stories on some of the sites my company helps to manage, but we’ll give it a shot. In the future, perhaps media company lawyers will take time to consider the unintended consequences of rapid-fire take-down notices.

*I am not a lawyer. This is my opinion. Before you follow any advice you pick up on the blogosphere, check with you own lawyer.