Blogging Just Got More Complex

smiliessmall.jpgHave you been following the dust-up between the Associated Press (AP) and the blogosphere?

It appears that the AP doesn’t want bloggers quoting its stories.

The AP sent a takedown notice to an independent blog, the Drudge Retort, claiming the blog is not allowed to quote parts of AP stories and link to them.

On top of that, apparently the AP purports to charge money for quoting as little as 5 words. Yes, you read that right. Quoting a mere 5 words of an AP story could cost you $12.50 (or at least, that’s what their website says — whether the AP enforces that provision is a different matter).

Various high profile blogs and journalists who write blogs have taken up the issue and say the AP is just wrong — that copyright law protects short quotes as “fair use.” Techcrunch, for instance, responded by banning AP stories from its blog and has written no fewer than 4 articles on the topic. Hilariously, in today’s article, Techcrunch demanded that the AP pay it $12.50 because, ironically, the AP quoted the Techcrunch blog in an AP story — the very thing they complained about bloggers doing!

Others are taking the AP’s side, or parts of it. For instance, a blog at the New York Times called the bloggers who are  fighting the AP “hotheaded.”

And the slings and arrows continue to fly as I write this.

In my latest article over at the OPEN Forum, I humorously point out that blogging is harder than it might appear. Reason: among other things, it’s like you’ve got to be a copyright lawyer to blog these days. From the comments that post is getting, it seems some people agree.

More in: 22 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

22 Reactions
  1. new media vs. old media…. since there’s way more of us i tend to think we’ll win this one in the end. by doing this the AP is showing they really don’t get it. collaboration and sharing works much better than isolationism and protectionism in the web 2.0 era.

  2. Am I the only one who sees a connection to the “deep linking” controversy? I believe that the Supremes or maybe a Federal District Court ruled that sites can forbid deep linking, a ban that I think is equal nonsense to the latest AP claims. But, that means that it seems equally likely to me that the courts could blow this one, too. Yes, it does seem you need to be a copyright lawyer, and IANACL. But, common sense dictates fair use, just as it dictates deep linking. Copyright has never given anyone complete control of any copyrighted material. Fair use is an obvious exception, but I’m sure a copyright lawyer would know of other exceptions. The AP’s play is about power, not right, and I hope Brent Leary is correct that the AP is on the losing side of history. It may take some nasty twists and turns before we reach that end, though.

  3. Well, now I’m wonderin if the AP will lose readership since they’d be left with newspapers and traditional media quoting them. Is that a good thing?

  4. That’s ridiculous,

    if AP wants to stop people from quoting them, then don’t post anything on the internet! That’s like a Hollywood actor asking the paparazzi not to take pictures of them, or charge them for every picture they take. It wont stop, and there’s nothing legally they can do. As long as the sources are sited, bloggers aren’t doing anything wrong.

  5. That is crazy. How can they quote someones blog and turn around and say that bloggers can’t do the same with their material? You would think they would see that bloggers linking to their stories is actually a positive thing.

  6. Matthew hit the nail on the head. Even if legal remedies existed, it would never be cost effective or practical to police violations, let alone try to enforce them.

  7. B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom

    The AP’s challenge is that the industry is changing. They are used to every newspaper in the country paying them to use their stories. It is their business model. At the same time subscriptions are dropping they see bloggers further eroding their customer base.

    Bloggers are used to getting everything free. Many of us are from a the generations that has never paid for music. We think nothing about using material without compensating (or sometimes giving credit to) the source.

    The answer is somewhere in the middle. We will have to abide by fair use. The AP will get tired of looking like the RIAA.

    Is anyone an attorney? I’d like to hear some real legal advice!

  8. As you can tell, I find this entire story humorous on the one hand. However, underneath, it’s a very serious matter.

    I for one won’t be quoting AP stories in the future — too much risk.

    Over at Reuters, a news service competitor to the AP, I imagine them doing high-5s. They must be laughing hysterically.

    For more about AP and why its business model and not bloggers are the real problem, read Jeff Jarvis’s post:

  9. This seems more than a little strange to me. Why would anyone not want people quoting their articles? I’m still trying to figure out what exactly they’re trying to accomplish by this. I can’t think of one good reason why it would even be worth the trouble….Hmm….Oh,well. The fact that they quoted TechCrunch is hilarious. Especially since he’s obviously taken issue with their request. They’ve handed him a loaded weapon. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with it. 🙂

  10. MarketingDeviant

    Some businesses fail to adapt to the times and hence will fail in the end.

  11. Anita,
    When I heard about this, my first thought:
    “Does the AP really want to mess with the power of the blogosphere?”
    Too many bloggers vs. an old school media titan.
    Let. The. Games. Begin.
    Joel Libava
    {MY links are only going to cost 2.00 each. Flat rate.}

  12. The result of this will show that the blogosphere has grown into a powerful monopoly on information sharing that cannot be stopped.

  13. How could you enforce this even if the laws adapted to anything like that? And why in the world would an organization such as theirs not want to be embraced by the blogosphere? I’m not exactly sure what the benefit in this nonsense is and the bad publicity is a consequence that could do some damage, too. The sense of greed here is rather unbecoming.

  14. Thanks Anita, very interesting post. I’m with you, mostly amused. What a dumb move by AP! You write and publish, and you’re going to get quoted, and as long as it’s fair use you can’t do anything about it but make yourself look silly. And that’s whether it’s you or me or AP or anybody else.

    I’m not a lawyer so maybe I’m all wet on this, but I did have a grad course in press law a few years ago and I’ve tried to follow new developments. “Fair use” is a legal concept based on precedent, and although it is not strictly defined, it’s more than five words.

    AP can bluster all it wants but it can’t stop anybody from quoting a paragraph or two. More than that, maybe that’s questionnable … and you can quote me on that!


  15. The AP and the rest of the mainstream media outlets don’t have a clue. Check out the discussion over at Pajamas Media:

  16. This whole idea is just doomed. Doomed I tells ya!

  17. Mark Anderson,

    I think you are right. Here in Sweden we have a problem with a new snoop law. Big Brother wants to watch every step, email message, currency transaction, etc. How is the situation in your part of the world? Please read Yaron Brook’s excellent commentary in Forbes. “From Flat World To Free World.”

  18. Brings up the risk/insurance issue – most liability insurance policies cover libel. Send a libelous letter to the editor and your insurance company will defend you.

    Say the same thing in a blog and your policy may not cover you. Check with your insurance advisor.

  19. There’s a difference between “quoting” and plagiarism and copyright infringement. The so-called “new media” has been talking for a decade about how it’s going to bury “old media,” but where does all the original content come from? That’s right — real journalists working for newspapers, television stations, and radio.

    If newspapers stopped putting their stories online tomorrow, the entire “blogosphere” would come to a screeching halt and all the “new media” types would be on the street begging for change.

  20. I read this piece, then I read the story. My initial gut reaction is on the side of bloggers. Then I thought about it some more, and though I’m still on the side of bloggers, I could understand, at times, where the AP might be coming from.

    I lamented in one of my blog posts some months ago how I hate when, just after I’ve posted something, I’m getting an immediate trackback from one of those blog sites that basically steals your comment because you happen to be talking about a subject they cover. If the AP’s gripe was that someone else is stealing their content, like these sites, without attribution or without comment, then I’d wholeheartedly support them because it’s how I feel.

    However, if someone copies a snippet, then comments on it, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Hey, that’s what the news is for, to give us information so that we can either absorb it or comment on it. And when we comment, some of us want to make sure our audience knows what we’re talking about, otherwise our words wouldn’t make any sense.

    So, for this particular example you mentioned, the AP was way off the mark, and in the news story, even their VP admits they may have gone over the edge. As for the NY Times writer,… well, what do we expect, since he works for one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world?

  21. Thank you kindly quote the author of the image used in your blog.
    @ Photo “Franck Boston”

  22. Hi Franck, that image was purchased from on June 18, 2008. The file number on iStockphoto is #4929879. I’d be happy to provide you with the receipt from It is our understanding that when purchased through iStockphoto, their terms of service do NOT require attribution. Anita

    PS, I forgot to congratulate you on the image. Very creative rendering of smiley faces….