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Bloggers beware, AP is on the warpath

17 June 2008

As someone who started aggregating news headlines and links before almost anyone else on the net, I've been watching how the mainstream media has dealt with this issue for a long time.

At first there was no problem - but that was mainly because the mainstream media didn't even have a presence on the web.

Even when they started to put material up, few of them considered that it would be an important part of their business model so they didn't seem to mind when others (like myself) began quoting their headlines and linking to their stories.

But the time I got around to starting the news site, it had become very clear that the Net was set to change the way news publishers delivered their content to readers.

Once an awareness of the Net's future importance began to dawn on these publishers, they became very worried about the whole concept of aggregation and linking, even though it was obvious that few of them understood what it meant.

Back in 1998, the Nando Times decided it didn't want linking to its stories or using its headlines and demanded that all those doing so would have to pay $100/month for the privilege.

In a very polite but firm way, I told the Nando Times to go and get stuffed.

They threatened to sue.

I said "bring it on".

Suffice to say they, they backed down and were left with egg all over their face.

But even before my experiences with Nando, I had a bunfight with TVNZ who also tried to clamp down on deep links to their website (get ready for a trip down nostalgia lane with edition 36 of Aardvark Weekly)

Now although some sites such as TVNZ and Nando really didn't understand the value to be had by links from other sites, there were quite a few other news publishers who were way-ahead of their time.

When, in about 1999, I stopped linking to the Los Angeles Times from, I got an email from their editor asking why and requesting that I reconsider - because they noticed the loss of traffic that had resulted.

And these days, when every link to your website is a step up the ladder of Google ranking, there are very few websites that don't go out of their way to encourage links from others.

However, it seems that there are still some dullards out there who (even in the 21st century) just don't get it.

I read today that The Associated Press (AP) have sent takedown notices under the USA's DMCA to The Drudge Report.

They claim that the use of their headlines is a breach of their copyright and that they'll be actively perusing bloggers and others who use them in a manner that is more like "reproduction than reference".

A spokesperson for AP says that bloggers should write their own short summaries of stories and not use direct quotations, not even very short ones.

Someone give these people a brain!

This is an old argument that has been well and truly put to bed a thousand times before.

If AP aren't careful, they'll simply destroy a significant part of the audience for their product. readers will recall that in about 1998 I started researching and writing my own news stories for publication on the website. This was an astounding success and by the time the business was sold, these original pieces had become the cornerstone of the site's traffic.

If AP aren't *very* careful, they run the risk that the blogging community will set up in opposition to them.

Anyone can sit down in front of a TV set or browse the mainstream news sites for news and then use the *facts* gleaned to write their own news stories in competition to AP.

Copyright doesn't protect the facts contained in a news story, only the presentation and prose used.

If AP really piss bloggers off enough, they'll set up a powerful network of writers who all contribute re-written stories to a global pool that can then be linked to and quoted from with impunity.

You'd think that, in this day and age, the mainstream media would have learned its lesson and not dared to throw a challenge down to the blogger community.

And, given that the mainstream media increasingly turns to bloggers for news leads and topics for stories, you'd think they'd have a little more respect - don't you?

What do you think about this stupid move on the part of AP?


If you're a blogger, will you be frightened enough to stop using headlines from and links to an AP story?

Or have AP picked a fight they simply can never win.

If Reuters, AFP, BBC and the host of other news sources on the Net don't follow suit, isn't AP's product simply going to be devalued by this move?

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