Media Bloggers Association -- who they are (and they aren't "representing blogs" to the Associated Press)

Regarding today's post on the Media Bloggers Association, whom the AP and New York Times said would "represent bloggers" in negotiations over whether the AP would be able to charge $12.50 for quoting five words from a news story (and only if you promised not to criticize the AP!), Mary sez, "AP (and the NYTimes) misrepresented that the MBA is representing bloggers to negotiate a policy about use of AP story quotes. I don't know Robert Cox, and wasn't familiar with the MBA, but some of the founding members include Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen, O Willis, Rebecca MacKinnon and Micah Sifry. Jay, Liza and others are saying that when the MBA represents bloggers in trouble with the FBI, over C&Ds and with other issues, they've been helpful."
The NYT (in implying) and AP in it's headline and throughout the article outright, completely misunderstand this, and lead readers to misunderstand that there is even an institution that can "negotiate for the blogosphere." The blogophere is made up of millions of little spheres of conversation and influence, and those are made up of tens of millions of bloggers. It's utterly ridiculous and shows a complete lack of understanding of the blogosphere to believe there is some sort of institution on the other side of traditional media. The whole point of blogging is that people do what they want, that online publishing is completely atomized, and that if some sort of policy were to be negotiated with one small group, no one else would likely follow it *because Fair Use exists* and I would personally rather follow the constitution on this one.

I think it's time for a correction/restatement/clarification at NYT and a complete retraction at AP.

Link (Thanks, Mary!)

See also: Who are the "Media Bloggers Association" and what gives them to right to negotiate copyright with the Associated Press?


  1. Can we stop with the use of “Blogosphere”, please? Pretty please? I’d like my grandpa saying “Tubular” or “Gnarly”.

  2. Since when does the AP get to “negotiate” the law? Copyright law is quite clear — the AP having a meeting with anyone or no one isn’t going to change that. AP is way out on their own on this one and needs to back down.

  3. Fair use is a defense, not a right… the AP is entitled to try to enforce whatever the heck they want, and they could conceivably get away with it if they’ve got scary-enough lawyers…

    (Not that I’m not for throwing out all of intellectual property.)

  4. Isn’t this the organization that falsely claimed credit for getting accreditation for bloggers at the Scooter Libby trial, when in reality it was Arianna Huffington and the crew at that did all the legwork?

  5. Glad to see you set the record straight. Still should have quote Liza at Culture Kitchen, though who has been the first dispel these notions.

  6. I am simply not getting what the heck the problem with a little group calling itself the Media Bloggers Association going into talks with Associated Press about fair use quoting could possibly be. Look, if you are going to stand up and scream about copyright law, you are also going to get creamed by copyright law. There are absolutely no set standards for how many words one can quote under fair use. It is entirely open to arguments in court that pertain to the proportion of the quote to length of article, commercial use, and financial effect on the copyright owner. It’s wide open. If you quote from AP and they don’t like what you do with your quote you can certainly get dragged into court and end up paying for it.

    So if tomorrow I decide to walk into the AP headquarters and say, ‘Hey guys, let’s try to decide on a little formula for quoting your stuff, okay?’ well, I am perfectly within my rights to do that. So is this MBA crew. They can say they represent all of us just as much as they like and they can make arrangements that will work for their blogs and maybe some of ours. That’s all there is anyway – private arrangements. The law does not get specific here. You’ve got to go to court to figure out each case. Really the best thing is to ignore what the MBA says it’s going to do. It makes as much difference as what I say I am going to do about Associated Press. Zip. Nothing matters except what gets decided in a court during a lawsuit about copyright infringement.

  7. lots of people who’s opinions shape politics and policy don’t know squat about any of this. A loud enough mouth, some PR money and Boom! Suddenly you are an “influential think tank”. Happens all the time, blogging ain’t immune to such. Getting the ear of the stupid but powerful really just takes brass balls. Soon the innertubes will blogospace in “responsible fashion”

  8. See also out beloved Theresa’s article on Making Light

    AP to negotiate with sham “Media Bloggers Association”

    The Media Bloggers Association substantially consists of one lackluster blogger named Robert Cox. His weblog, Words in Edgewise, and the MBA website, are two halves of the same site. Robert Cox isn’t all that interested in blogging per se. What he’s really into is self-aggrandizement by representing himself as someone who speaks for bloggers and blogging. An embarrassing number of organizations have fallen for this.

    There is much more.

    Robert Cox (then Bob Cox) was or is the proprietor of Olbermann Watch, a nutbar right-wing attack site. I don’t want to link to it. You can read about the blog, Robert Cox, the early days of the MBA, and the kind of things RC does with his prized “journalistic credentials”, in Watching Olbermann Watch. This ties Cox to the likes of Rupert Murdoch. It’s definitely food for paranoia.

    Quite the character.

  9. Robert Cox claims to be a lawyer for bloggers. He says he represents individual bloggers that seek his council. But, now that I find out he has connections to Olbermann Watch, we know he is just a shill.

  10. To people saying fair use is only a defense-to use the treat of a law suit when you know a valid and well established defense exists just because the treat of a law suit may give you an advantage is abuse of process and economic duress. While I agree that US IP laws should be rewritten clearly defining and expanding fair use (and maybe making a different level of status for not-for-profit or unintentional infringement that may arguably effect the market), it does not make it OK to use threat of a copyright suit to chill the freedom of the press, commentary on the news or the press, or to stop legitimate new creations that have some small part in common with a previous work.

    I can understand the source of the confusion. The copyright office does advise readers to avoid court and give in whenever challenged (or before being challenged) because the law makers and courts will not clearly define “fair use”. However, threatening to sue someone to scare the fair use doctrine out of practical existence is abuse of process and not a right given by simply owning copyright and having more resources to fight in court. That common misunderstanding of the purpose of copyright laws just reflects how badly the laws are written.

  11. Mary, Cory — The question is how real Robert Cox and the MBA are, not whether Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen, Oliver Willis, Rebecca MacKinnon, and Micah Sifry are real.

    The NYT (in implying) and AP in it’s headline and throughout the article outright, … lead readers to misunderstand that there is even an institution that can “negotiate for the blogosphere.” The blogophere is made up of millions of little spheres of conversation and influence, and those are made up of tens of millions of bloggers. It’s utterly ridiculous and shows a complete lack of understanding of the blogosphere to believe there is some sort of institution on the other side of traditional media.

    The problem with this defense is that the story didn’t say that it was reasonable for a person or organization to claim to speak for the blogosphere. It reported that the AP and Robert Cox of the MBA were proposing to do so.

    It’s true that Cox is now saying that the previous and quite real-sounding news story, which said that he had proposed to negotiate guidelines with the AP on behalf of the blogosphere, was mistaken — he never did any such thing.

    Let’s look again at the beginning of the original story:

    AP to meet with blogging group to form guidelines
    By Seth Sutel

    NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press, following criticism from bloggers over an AP assertion of copyright, plans to meet this week with a bloggers’ group to help form guidelines under which AP news stories could be quoted online.

    Jim Kennedy, the AP’s director of strategic planning, said Monday that he planned to meet Thursday with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, as part of an effort to create standards for online use of AP stories by bloggers that would protect AP content without discouraging bloggers from legitimately quoting from it.

    The story went out from the AP. It was reported by Seth Sutel, who is no stranger to the Associated Press. It quoted the AP’s Director of Strategic Planning.

    If the story was false, and Robert Cox never did propose or agree to any such thing, as he’s now claiming, then he’s either saying that Seth Sutel invented the story and sold it to the AP — which would be a major journalistic scandal — or he’s saying that a spokesman for the AP told the public a tremendous whopper and the AP circulated it as news, which would be an even juicier news story.

    Notice that reporters aren’t pursuing either story.

    Robert Cox has also been insisting that the reports, widely circulated at the time, about how he had personally been responsible for obtaining journalistic credentials for bloggers covering the Scooter Libby trial — a version of events flatly and credibly denied by the non-MBA bloggers who covered the trial — was also a case of the press inexplicably making up a story and crediting it to him.

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