It’s their content and they can do what they wanna

[Sorry, earlier I had some versioning issues with this post as it reverted to previous iterations (user error, I’m sure). I think that’s cleared up now.]

From Robert Cox’s post on the back story of how the AP and the Drudge Retort came to terms comes this quote:

“AP’s position that there was no fair use exception for a post which contained only the verbatim AP headline of a story and the lede paragraph. AP’s argument has been that a large percentage of the value of what they deliver is carefully packaged in that content and so the publishing of that information without permission was a copyright violation.

I’m trying to remain open-minded until I hear from the AP their specific guidance on what they believe IS fair use. One thing seems clear, however. They view this as a legal issue, not an issue of common sense the value of links in an attention-based economy.

But something else is also clear to me. They can do whatever they want. It’s their content. We may believe content wants to be free, but if those who own it don’t want it to be free, they can hire an army of lawyers to argue that belief. You need to be prepared to do similarly if you want to fight for your beliefs. If AP wants to, they can rope-a-dope this issue for a decade (or as long as newspapers are around). Personally, I don’t want to spend another dime on attorney fees testing anything — however I would contribute to the cause.

The reality is, there are lots of sources to link to who would welcome the Google juice that comes from bloggers linking to them. The Wall Street Journal goes out of its way to tear down its paywall for bloggers. So if the AP wants to drive traffic away from its member newspaper sites and to content from Reuters, Dow-Jones, the New York Times and the original news stories on which much of the AP stories are based, then why bother fighting them? (That was a rhetorical question — I actually know the answer, but really don’t care to engage in the debate.)

Bonus links: While I haven’t had time to blog about this issue during the past week (nor, frankly, the desire to jump in until now), I’ve read some great analysis — along with way too-much of what Dave Winer calls “breast-beating” to attract traffic. Two posts written by Scott Karp were especially insightful to me: “Associated Press Hands Local And National News Sites An Opportunity To Get Links And Traffic” and “Connecting The Dots Of The Web Revolution.” Also, Dave Winer suggests this morning that, “(it would be great to) have a discussion, even an argument, without the posturing and breast-beating. It’s all bluffing, a play for more attention, page-reads, flow, money.” I agree, but am not sure if I can always discern the difference between arguing and breast-beating. Oh well, enjoy the day.

  • Hudge

    just this morning a lawyer friend who represents many newspapers and media comgloms opined that he believes magazines and newspapers that “give away” their content online are making a huge mistake. This after he went looking for an article i had mentioned and was disappointed to find only a few tease grafs on the magazine’s web site, not the full article. We didn’t have time for a full discussion, and i’m still trying to sort it all out, having been on both sides of the matter. “Give away” it is not, in a strict business sense. The thing I most object to is having to pay for articles more than XX days old. That made sense when someone in the pub’s morgue had to run the article down, copy and mail it. I guess the charge now pays for data storage?

  • @Hudge – The New York Times has discovered there is more value in generating advertising that appears on the pages of their archives than in charging for access to those articles. It fits their business model — perhaps not others’. I think every publisher has the right to decide — and defend — what is in their best interest. My opinion, however, is that choosing to wall-off content makes little sense for companies whose business model is primarily and historically been dependent on advertising.