Associated Press expects you to pay to license 5-word quotations (and reserves the right to terminate your license)

In the name of "defin[ing] clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt" the Associated Press is now selling "quotation licenses" that allow bloggers, journallers, and people who forward quotations from articles to co-workers to quote their articles. The licenses start at $12.50 for quotations of 5-25 words. The licensing system exhorts you to snitch on people who publish without paying the blood-money, offering up to $1 million in reward money (they also think that "fair use" -- the right to copy without permission -- means "Contact the owner of the work to be sure you are covered under fair use.").

It gets better! If you pay to quote the AP, but you offend the AP in so doing, the AP "reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time if Publisher or its agents finds Your use of the licensed Content to be offensive and/or damaging to Publisher's reputation."

Over on Making Light, Patrick Nielsen Hayden nails it:

The New York Times, an AP member organization, refers to this as an “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt.” I suggest it’s better described as yet another attempt by a big media company to replace the established legal and social order with with a system of private law (the very definition of the word “privilege”) in which a few private organizations get to dictate to the rest of society what the rules will be. See also Virgin Media claiming the right to dictate to private citizens in Britain how they’re allowed to configure their home routers, or the new copyright bill being introduced in Canada, under which the international entertainment industry, rather than democratically-accountable representatives of the Canadian people, will get to define what does and doesn’t amount to proscribed “circumvention.” Hey, why have laws? Let’s just ask established businesses what kinds of behaviors they find inconvenient, and then send the police around to shut those behaviors down. Imagine the effort we’ll save.

Welcome to a world in which you won’t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you’ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.

Welcome to a world in which you won’t own any of your technology or your music or your books, because ensuring that someone makes their profit margins will justify depriving you of the even the most basic, commonsensical rights in your personal, hand-level household goods.

The people pushing for this stuff are not well-meaning, and they are not interested in making life better for artists, writers, or any other kind of individual creators. They are would-be aristocrats who fully intend to return us to a society of orders and classes, and they’re using so-called “intellectual property” law as a tool with which to do it. Whether or not you have ever personally taped a TV show or written a blog post, if you think you’re going to wind up on top in the sort of world these people are working to build, you are out of your mind.




  1. This makes me hate, and I don’t like to hate. Nothing makes sense to me anymore.

  2. Funny, they’ve got a page on “AP and Freedom of Information”:

    This article as a whole is very true and very important for any citizen to read. Though I don’t believe that the companies have a conspiracy to deprive the public of property and create a nobility, I do believe that they can’t have any good intentions.

  3. Start charging AP for access to press conferences and start charging by the word when AP wants to quote what someone says.

  4. So how tangled could this get? If AP quotes something you say, you have pay to quote yourself?
    Will articles need to be tagged to show what is original content and what’s been recycled from somewhere else?

    What a mess.

  5. This whole idea basically breaks scholarly works. The idea that they can revoke the license if they don’t like what’s done with it is absurd.

    I supopose the way around it is to find out what AP member paper your author writes for and go straight to him or her for premission. That is unless AP holds all redistobution rights, which is probably true.

  6. So, what about if I translate an AP quote into a foreign language and back again. Does that count as anything? For example, from the AP FOI page linked to above:

    AP communication is the fortress of the people on the thing right which is known in the world.

    It is to laugh.

  7. A thought experiment in response to this: Set up a web site that is nothing but millions of 5 word sentence fragments. Register a copyright for your website. Then scan AP articles and search for matches. Whenever AP uses one of your fragments bill them $12.50. If they refuse to pay, sue for $300K, and let them prove in court that their own policy is ridiculous…

  8. Apparently, AP is meeting with teh bloggers in order to argue them into accepting its version of “fair” use.

    (Cut and paste. I’m not going to link to anything on AP until they get their heads out of their arses.)

  9. This can’t be right… AP itself says on their site, that “The Associated Press is the bastion of the people’s right to know around the world.”

  10. The next logical step in their delusions is that they’ll expect us to pay license fees for individual letters.

    Hey, bud. – WHO ME? – SHHHH! – who me? – Riiight! Would You Like to Buy an O?

    I’d laugh if this was funny, but it ain’t.

  11. so if I shop a “violator” they can end up with a bill of up to $300,000, and I get $1,000,000 as a reward.

    Hmmm, I sense a loophole to earn me and a buddy $350,000 each ;)

  12. What happens when one of these comment posts quotes an AP story? Does BoinBoing owe $5? Does the commenter? What if it’s an anonymous comment? How often does 5 words that in order in an AP story just happen to appear in the same order on the internet? If this inititive is actually successful(LOL), how long until AP starts putting out BS stories with common phrases in them just to collect infringer money?

  13. They are already starving.

    the text between the Fnords reads as follows:

    “We’re not making a living copywriting viewpoint-neutral articles that concisely and succinctly encapsulate the news; Rupert Murdoch is eating our dinner and bloggers are eating our breakfast. News is as (fnord fnord fnord MediaFnordFnordFnord) News does: Is the AP gonna hafta choke a bi…”

  14. Who / how do we sue NOW for injunctive relief?
    I know there are plenty of folks at EFF who read BB… please tell us there’s something already in the works about this?

    @ #10
    As to the “Media Bloggers Association” — who exactly are these folks? Their website indicates registration for membership is not yet available. I’m concerned that the AP can say “we made an agreement with the industry group” when that industry group has closed enrollment.

  15. I was interviewed by the AP last year. I then quoted them quoting me on my blog. Do I now have to pay them $50 for the privilege? This is a farce.

  16. Bah… intellectual property is theft… half-measures and compromises with uncompromising businesses are only a slower route to hell.

    see also:

    Overton windows
    slippery slope
    Corporate personhood
    The corporation as sociopath

  17. Bdewhirst, copyright isn’t theft, but “intellectual property” is a scam.

  18. “Does it matter if the five words are cited or just happened to appear in some AP story in that combination?

    Sorry Ms. Blogger, but you used the following quotes in a recent post:

    ‘went to the store today’
    ‘on the other hand, I’
    ‘and then the bear exploded’

    Your friend has turned you in and collected a million dollars for your heinous crimes, and now you have to pay a fine.”

  19. This is ridculous, how can someone charge me for 5 words, and on top of that choose to ban be from using them if they feel like it. Some liberty.

  20. As a person who has actually paid for full AP and Reuters news licenses, it seems to me that the issue is not about “fair use” but “commercial use”.

    AP has very strict licensing conditions for their text, including use of headlines and short quotes, for a reason. News doesn’t just appear out of thin air. AP, and other news agencies, incur real cost in news gathering.

    I doubt very much they will go after small bloggers who make a few dollars from AdSense. However, if a major commercial blog uses headlines and text from AP as part of its offerings then it is not unreasonable that it should pay for that text.

    When we used them, AP and Reuters were extremely picky about compliance with their licensing terms. For that reason, and also because we paid a substantial amount for the feeds we were happy to report any other sites that used AP stories without permission.

    If you don’t like the conditions attached to use of commercial text, you have the option to use another news source.

  21. I predict a huge upsurge in 4-word AP quotes.

    “Wholesale prices bolted ahead…”

    [Rest of the story to follow in the next 191 consecutive posts.]

  22. I doubt very much they will go after small bloggers who make a few dollars from AdSense.

    Which would be a fine and reasonable position to take, were it not for the fact that this is, in fact, precisely what The AP is doing.

  23. To sue someone for actions that do not violate your legal rights is an abuse of the legal system. I hope some judge will recognize that what AP is attempting to do is establish private law. And, I hope that judge SPANKS AP VERY HARD for it.

  24. This “Media Bloggers Association” sounds a little like some of the “tribal councils” the crown made treaties with in the 19th century.

  25. “I doubt very much they will go after…” (fill in the blank) has been a recipe for failure for a long time.

    Kos has an update

    On Saturday, The A.P. retreated. Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., said in an interview that the news organization had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed” and that The A.P. was going to rethink its policies toward bloggers.

    “If they don’t back off this ridiculous notion, there will be litigation, and Daily Kos will be happy to be at the forefront of any such effort.”

    Read the modified AP position here.

  26. Ahhh, the spastic flailing of a dying industry. I shan’t quote any AP articles on my blog. But I will rewrite them with great glee. And just to spite them, I will refuse to conform to the arbitrary rules of the AP Stylebook.

  27. The EULA on their feed site (I am cringing with the sheer irony of that phrase) specifically forbids you from rewriting any content thereon. And by reading it, you agree!

  28. I doubt very much they will go after small bloggers who make a few dollars from AdSense.

    Of course they will. Why would they go after a large organization with a phalanx of lawyers? Bullies never pick on anyone their own size. Surely you know that.

  29. “the goal of America is freedom”

    I guess I owe the AP $12.50 since I found this phrase in 20 articles with (AP) on the page.

  30. This is all very ridiculous but that is not the important question. What is important is can they get the courts to go along with this nonsense? Because you can be damn sure the “telecom immunity is fine with us” congress doesn’t have your back.

    This is why it is so so important that the NetRoots project succeed and we elect representatives who are not bought off by corporate interests.

  31. Doesn’t AP know that if you give it away you’ll sell more? I’ve seen that theory somewhere. Hey, data is a product, and if someone wants to charge for it, fine. You don’t want it, don’t use it. It’s the free market baby.

  32. need to make it easy. An applet that synonyms everything put through it? In the interim,drop any mention of AP from anything you do. Let them become un-persons. Name of source is everything in the news business, give them nothing.

    We really need to start paying attention to how people survived and even thrived in old Soviet Bloc countries. They must have a toolkit of methods and ways that is becoming invaluable in the “free world” today.

    Does someone with better understanding than me of where AP’s revenue flow stems from care to weigh in?

  33. An applet that synonyms everything put through it?


    I knew this would come in handy someday!!! It’s my friend Ian’s project. It’s still under construction, he has to edit the database of words he’s drawing from, but it’s pretty nifty.

    Definitely time to write some AP/RIAA slashfic.

    Go for it. Fluff film next. Let’s do this.

    “The Associated Press is the bastion of the people’s right to know around the world.”

    Mmmm. Right to know, and pay.

    This is ridiculous. What, when I quote an AP article in my scholarly papers for English Comp. I, I need to pay? All I should be expected to do is attribute. Works Cited list with neat little bibliographical entries. I know you wrote it.

    This will -kill- theseseses and scholarly works and just about all publications. It can’t be allowed to go on the books, not because we can expect the AP to only go after ‘major infringers’ or people who don’t attribute- oh no. Because if it’s on the books, then it can be enforced, it stands the risk of being enforced against anyone.

  34. #38 Ben Ursa: Excuse me, but that’s $250, because your excerpt is a quotation from those 20 articles each.

  35. Between the AP and DRM issues, I can envision a day when simply remembering something you read or heard will count as an illegal use or playback.

  36. “The EULA on their feed site (I am cringing with the sheer irony of that phrase) specifically forbids you from rewriting any content thereon. And by reading it, you agree!”

    Hah! You just rewrote the content of thier EULA!

    I want my million dollars.

  37. “I doubt very much they will go after small bloggers ”

    It’s irrelevant who AP decides to “go after.” Fair use is a time-tested part of copyright law. The fact that a press organization doesn’t like this doesn’t allow them to bully others into forfeiting their rights under law. You can protect some short text, such as a trademark, but even in this case the protection is very limited. I don’t doubt that AP considers their best headlines to have commercial value, but that doesn’t mean that the law exists to secure that value.

    “We really need to start paying attention to how people survived and even thrived in old Soviet Bloc countries.”

    If I remember my Solzhenitsyn correctly, it mostly involved collecting other people’s discarded cigarette butts out of spitoons so that eventually you can make–oh joy!–your very own cigarette. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that (plus AP’ll probably want to charge for their discards too).

  38. Tenn, Tak:

    The thesaurusizer appears to be an auto-game question generator.. (if not very cryptic yet)
    PKD would be proud, well done to Ian :)

    Lets see if it works: Sci-Fi Films, 1908-2008

    Snug Meets of the Tierce Genial

  39. I think it counts for Tenn, being as I entered that in, and then, on pressing Enter and waiting for my browser, thought… Genial! Genus! KIND!

  40. (The following is somewhat tangential, but I’ve had enough of this kind of “intellectual property” BS.)

    This is why the free market cannot be trusted. Corporations take on lives of their own and develop their own perverse survival instincts which make life miserable for actual human beings.

    If artificial intelligence is ever developed to the point that it can effectively replace human beings, do you know what will happen? Corporations will become entirely artificial. Employing human beings is inefficient and costly–you have to pay them, they can only work so many hours a week, they can get sick, they require so many benefits, etc. A humanless company could easily outcompete any who still employed us.

    Corporations are already considered artificial persons, but imagine if they were governed by centralized AI. We would find ourselves in a world littered with superhuman psychopaths whose sole motive is profit. Human interests will become entirely irrelevant; their satisfaction would be purely accidental.

    While not necessarily a prediction, this is a proof of how corporate capitalism is inherently a dehumanizing system. Just follow out the logic, and this is what you get. The problem is not with particular “evil” corporate execs or companies, but with the system that creates them and pushes them in these nefarious directions.

    Is this the kind of world we want to live in? Are we really more willing to trust corporations than governments, some of which are at least ostensibly democratic? (Free market fundamentalists are as delusional as any other kind of fundamentalist, if not more so.)

    We don’t necessarily need to get rid of markets–command economies have their own problems, some of which are worse. But we need to regulate them heavily, even if it comes at the cost of “economic growth”–I mean, whose “growth” are we talking about here anyway? If we have any concern for the long-term future of our species, we must put corporations in their proper place.

  41. goodbye AP, whose going to run your stories now? now people are going to paraphrase instead of quote. no ones going to pay for something covered by fair use.

  42. Aren’t you taking this out of context a little bit? They have to eat too and when people cut & paste their articles into their blogs, then they’re taking away clicks that support their ads.

    From a NY Times article on the topic:

    “Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see,” he said. “It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context.

    The principal question is whether the excerpt is a substitute for the story, or some established adaptation of the story,” said Timothy Wu, a professor at the Columbia Law School. Mr. Wu said that the case is not clear-cut, but he believes that The A.P. is likely to lose a court case to assert a claim on that issue.”

    ALL you have to do to not get fined is give them a shout-out and just don’t directly copy their work. Just rephrase it. The problem was that people just copied an AP article and posted it on their own site, so that readers never needed to go to the A.P. and read it for themselves.

  43. Okay, anti-AP’ers. Keep in mind that, contrary to some hysterical opinions, nobody is trying to prevent bloggers from using AP quotes to criticize the media, which would obviously fall under fair use. This is about people taking AP content and displaying it on their own web pages, thus profiting from the AP’s service without paying anything in return.

    So, I’ll ask this: what rights do you think the AP SHOULD have over its material? What rights does copyright confer?

  44. would obviously fall under fair use.

    I’m not going to go digging through articles here, but a lot of what Cory posts has to do with the diminishing of Fair Use through super-corporations like Disney. Parody, etc can get targeted even under Fair Use.

  45. “Parody, etc can get targeted even under Fair Use.”

    Well, it can get targeted, but the plaintiff will always lose. Without a citation, I don’t see any evidence that fair use rights are being infringed here.

  46. I do hope that you payed them for all of those pieces of their license agreement and press release that you quoted.

    Ugh. This is ridiculous. I’m pretty confident this would be struck down in court, but maybe I’m too optimistic…

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