Go Away or I Shall Taunt You a Second Time


The Associated Press has issued a statement explaining the “license” they gave me to quote Thomas Jefferson. A few brief comments:

It is an automated form, thus explaining how one blogger got it to charge him for the words of a former president.

The problem is not just that they use an automated form to issue their “licenses” (although the automated form does make it easy to mock them). No, the problem is that they also make bizarre, sweeping copyright claims about “their” content. Their automated form is a trap for the ill-informed, and the rest of the AP is doing yeoman’s work to keep the quoting public ill-informed.

As the AP stated more than a year ago, the form is not aimed at bloggers.

I am a blogger, but the “license” fees they charge would be equally absurd for any medium. It’s just as much fair use for a Fortune 500 company to quote a half-dozen words from an AP story as it is for a blogger. The public domain is open to everyone. The form is a lie, and saying “We’re not lying to bloggers” is merely a way of ducking the true issue.

It is intended to make it easy for people who want to license AP content to do so.

As applied to short excerpts and material not taken from AP stories (think about the user who’s trying to quote from two stories and enters text from the non-AP one by accident), no license is required. In this context, “mak[ing] it easy to license AP content” in that context means making it easy to send the AP money by mistake.


How much are they going to charge you to quote their statement? ;-)


You got them to issue a press release?!


Posted clips from your updates at a few forums. Responses include “What are these self-righteous blogtards going to do when there are no longer any actual journalists left?” We’ve got a long way to go.


I’ve been reading about this incident, and I’m not sure what you expect from AP. They made an easy way for people to license their content if they need to. Do you really expect them to include free legal advice about when you need that license? I’m sure I could easily get multiple real life lawyers to not be able to agree on what you expect an automated form to figure out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of how complicated copyright has become. I just don’t see a better way for AP to deal with this problem.


Jason, no one ever requires a license to quote five words of AP content. Providing a way to obtain a license for complete reprints is one thing. Setting a price for quotes of 5-25 words is something else entirely: fraud.


If AP is pretending to sell things they don’t own, that’s fraud. They could and should make the form check that the excerpt really is from the credited article. That wouldn’t remedy the problem with fair use, but it would at least stop them from actually accepting money for things they don’t own.

If AP wanted to add a donation box next to their articles, that would be great — they would not be claiming to have rights they don’t have, and they’d get as much or more money from the people who use their stuff without licensing it as they do now.


Given the nature of your article and the wit of using Jefferson’s quote in that manner, you might enjoy this: http://againstmonopoly.org/.

Have a nice day. :)


If AP says that the form is not aimed at bloggers, are they saying that bloggers are not expected to taken an AP license when they are using content over which AP can validly assert copyright??


“It is an automated form, thus explaining how one blogger got it to charge him for the words of a former president.”

As a software developer, I take offense at the equivocation between “automated” and “braindead.” If I were to write to AP and request a license to reprint some of their work, I would expect the person on the other end to make sure that they have the right to sell me a license for it. An automated form should work the same way, and it is even easier for a computer to do a full-text search that it would be for a human.

If their partnership with iCopyright really only counts the words and sends a bill, AP itself is getting hugely ripped off.


Jason, did you really read this post? Are you really serious that you agree with AP using this mechanism for a quote such as the one described in this post? Somehow I feel that you don’t …


I did read the post. I don’t see why it’s AP’s job to make sure the request is valid, since all they are doing is producing a license to use content. They are not providing a legal service to check for fair use, nor a search engine to check that they actually own the material. It does not seem unreasonable in this system to put that responsibility on the user of the system. Especially since the system is just to produce a license to protect the user.

Imagine that you go to a store to buy gum. You forgot milk, so you go back to get it, and then you get really absent minded, and pay for the gum again. Do you expect the store to realize you are paying for your own gum?


James, I don’t get the significance of this exercise. It’s an automated form for the purpose of licensing excerpts from AP articles. It’s pretty clear that the purpose is for licensing of excerpts from AP articles, not from some other source entirely. I don’t see why it’s such a scandal that it doesn’t check to see if you’re typing in is actually from the article in question — realistically, why would they need to build in such a check? Is there a real danger here of people going to AP’s licensing site to get a license for Thomas Jefferson quotes, other than as an academic exercise? If that’s not a real danger, then why should we be concerned about this?


The AP has been making aggressive—and wrong—claims about the scope of their rights with respect to aggregation and quotation. They’ve coupled that with a licensing tool that charges high fees, using a very crude metric, and covering many short quotations for which no license whatsoever is needed. My Jefferson experiment is the extrapolation of their broad claims and crude tools to their logical result—an obvious absurdity. The form and the AP’s many public statements, taken together, are deceptive.

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