It’s official: The AP is absolutely nuts

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I’ve tried to avoid speaking out regarding reports about the Associated Press’ plans for the future. I’ve done so because AP executives and board members have a habit of saying lots of things that are later “corrected” after they stick their fingers in the air and discover the wind is blowing another direction. So I assume everything I hear that’s attributed to “someone at AP” is merely a trial balloon.

However, the article in the New York Times today about AP (or, if you prefer, “the” AP) “cracking down on unpaid use of articles on the web,” attributes the insanity it reports to the CEO of the AP — by name. As he was going on record with the New York Times, I have to assume that he means what he’s saying.

In other words, I feel fairly confident now that it’s okay for me to start calling a nut a nut.

Here’s a quote from the NYTimes.com story:

“Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.”

In other words, what I just did — quote the New York Times and point to the article — would be considered a copyright violation by AP if the point was to an AP story. To quote and link to that story would require me to have a licensing agreement with AP. That policy, of course, is nuts.

And I’m not even saying it’s nuts from a legal “fair use” standpoint or nuts because AP reporters quote and link to bloggers all day everyday. And I won’t even explain why it’s nuts because of the traffic-driving dynamics and economics of advertising revenue that results when I point to an AP story on, say, my hometown newspaper’s website.

I’m just saying “it’s nuts.” And it’s nuts that Tom Curley doesn’t understand why it is nuts.

Here’s an example — a personal one — of why it is nuts:

Because my company, Hammock Inc, publishes a magazine and various online content that are read by hundreds-of-thousands of small business owners, I am a voracious scanner of news that might be of interest to that audience. A few times each day, I spend about five minutes scanning a hundred or so small business related headlines that are collected by Google Reader. My first review will be about six a.m. and my last will be about ten p.m. In other words, I’m typically on top of what people are writing about the topic of small business. (One of the reasons I don’t blog about that topic is that I am writing or talking about it so much elsewhere.)

Several years ago, I decided to use the service Delicious.com to bookmark and share with anyone interested the links to the best articles I ran across each day. Simply clicking and sharing links — or, “curating news” as the cool kids now call it — is something I’ve rarely blogged about here, but those 5,000 bookmarks I’ve added to Delicious.com/smallbusiness over the years are an incredible service I’ve provided by doing little more than 4-5 clicks per day. Frankly, I have absolutely no idea if anyone other than me ever looks at the actual page, Delicious.com/smallbusiness.

However, I do know this: Delicious.com/smallbusiness generates an RSS feed that hundreds of people subscribe to. And over the years, I’ve pointed that RSS feed in several directions (and I’ve granted a Creative Commons license for anyone else to use it, as well). For example, I’ve pointed that feed so those links can be used by 4,000+ people who follow a Twitter account I maintain at Twitter.com/smallbusiness or @smallbusiness to Twitter users.

That RSS feed also powers the SmallBusiness.com NewsWire page on SmallBusiness.com, where, on the front page, the RSS feed powers the recent headlines feature. There’s even a daily email of the headlines that people can get free, again powered by the RSS feed from that Delicious account. In other words, my simple act of adding to a Delicious account 4-5 bookmarks a day — articles I selected from hundreds of headlines I scan each day — is viewed by thousands of people, who in turn, forward or “re-tweet” links to, potentially, hundreds of others.

So here I am, by merely bookmarking links 4-5 times a day, generating hundreds of page views on news websites.

I used to point to Yahoo! AP stories on Yahoo!. Yahoo licenses AP content, so I figured that would be okay. However, when AP started talking about their in-the-works policy, I started moving away from linking to the AP version of news stories. Let me say: It’s easy to do. Rarely is there not another version of the kind of headline story I point to.

So, if AP wants to criminalize me for choosing to generate hundreds of page views for them each day, that’s fine. I’ll officially stop pointing any link in their direction.

But they’re nuts.

More: Jeff Jarvis says the Associated Press is becoming the “enemy of the internet” because the link is the basis of the internet.