Associated Press will sell you a license to quote the public domain

James Grimmelman sez,
The Associated Press -- which thinks you owe it a license fee if you quote more than four words from one of its articles -- doesn't even care if the words actually came from its article. They'll charge you anyway, even if you're quoting from the public domain.

I picked a random AP article and went to their "reuse options" site. Then, when they asked what I wanted to quote, I punched in Thomas Jefferson's famous argument against copyright. Their license fee: $12 for an educational 26-word quote. FROM THE PUBLIC FREAKING DOMAIN, and obviously, obviously not from the AP article. But the AP is too busy trying to squeeze the last few cents out of a dying business model to care about little things like free speech or the law.

They tell me I have to use the sentence "exactly as written" and heaven help me if I don't include the complete footer with their copyright boilerplate. Along the way, their terms of use insisted that I'm not allowed to use Jefferson's words in connection with "political Content." Also, I can't use use his words in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory" to the AP. As if. Jefferson's thoughts on copyright are inherently political, and inherently derogatory towards the the AP's insane position on copyright. I require no license to quote Jefferson. The AP has no right to stop me, no right to demand money from me. All their application does is count words to calculate a fee. It doesn't even check that the words come from the story being "quoted."

The AP Will Sell You a "License" to Words It Doesn't Own (Thanks, James!)