The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

The Daily Me: Editor, Publisher, Subscriber – Pt. 2

Like I said, there are too many people like me — with more a voice and an outlet that was possible before — for “The Daily Me” to ever really cease publication.

Not that there haven’t been attempts along those lines. One of the most chilling was last year when the Associated Press filed 7 takedowns against a blog under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The offense, linking to AP content with quotes of less that 100 words. Linking and quoting is, or was, a copyright violation.

I’m currently engaged in a legal disagreement with the Associated Press, which claims that Drudge Retort users linking to its stories are violating its copyright and committing “‘hot news’ misappropriation under New York state law.” An AP attorney filed six Digital Millenium Copyright Act takedown requests this week demanding the removal of blog entries and another for a user comment.

The Retort is a community site comparable in function to Digg, Reddit and Mixx. The 8,500 users of the site contribute blog entries of their own authorship and links to interesting news articles on the web, which appear immediately on the site. None of the six entries challenged by AP, which include two that I posted myself, contains the full text of an AP story or anything close to it. They reproduce short excerpts of the articles — ranging in length from 33 to 79 words — and five of the six have a user-created headline.

Here’s one of the six disputed blog entries:

Clinton Expects Race to End Next Week

Hillary Rodham Clinton says she expects her marathon Democratic race against Barack Obama to be resolved next week, as superdelegates decide who is the stronger candidate in the fall. “I think that after the final primaries, people are going to start making up their minds,” she said. “I think that is the natural progression that one would expect.”

If you follow the link, you’ll see that the blog entry reproduces 18 words from the story and a 32-word quote by Hillary Clinton under a user-written headline. The blog entry drew 108 comments in the ensuing discussion.

I have all the expertise in intellectual property law of somebody who’s never been sued, so standard disclaimers apply. But I have difficulty seeing how it violates copyright law for a blogger to link to a news story with a short snippet of the story in furtherance of public discussion.

AP feels otherwise.

I’d admit, I don’t understand the AP,or its reasoning. For the purposes of the kind of blogging I do, they’re pretty much useless to me, because their content expires so quickly. Want to link to a relevant article from a coupla months ago, that you remembered? Poof. Gone. How to find it again is a mystery. Or not. You probably can’t find it again, unless you find someone who has violated copyright by posting the entire article (as opposed to 33 to 79 words).

According to an AP story surprisingly still online, concerning their attempt to work with bloggers to set some guidelines, their concerns (and I dare not quote them directly) are basically about AP content being quoted out of context and keeping the value of their content from being diluted, etc.

But their concerns and practices seem to contradict or cancel out each other. One of the problems with AP content is that even if I only quote a small portion of it, with a link back to the full article, anyone who visits my blog within a coupla months will only have access to the quoted portion, with will be permanently out of context, because the context (the rest of the article I linked to) has disappeared, and unless someone else violates copyright, it’s never going to be seen again. That may be a function of their concern about the “dilution” of their content, but it ends up causing their content to quoted out of context because the context eventually disappears.

So what are the AP guidelines for quoting? Beats me. Search as I might, I don’t know what they are because I never found them. I’m not sure the AP knows what they want either. Otherwise, I guess they might have told us.

Besides, if we can’t blockquote within reason, blogging becomes a lot more difficult, even for someone like me who usually includes a fare amount of my own writing in most posts,  in addition to blockquotes of relevant material. The only alternative I can think of is resorting to essentially rewriting, summarizing, or paraphrasing the relevant material, and providing footnotes at the end that link to source material. (But heaven help you if you forget to footnote something…)

It sounds familiar.

The AP’s ambivalent attitude was clear when I interviewed AP CEO Tom Curley last year. While talking up the web 2.0 ethos of free-floating content, he also balked at what some would consider fair use: “If you want our content, we expect to be paid for it ? this nonsense that you can just take the first paragraph or use the picture small doesn’t really fly with us.”

Of course, the AP is in somewhat charted territory here, having been in court with Moreover for awhile, over basically the same thing. But it’s one thing to go after a large, commercial organization (VeriSign), and it’s quite another, strategically, to go after a rather small social news community with a few BlogAds running along the side. The fact that it chose this site of all of them is sending a strong signal. It’s not going to work, of course. It’s probably the ultimate tilting-at-windmills situation. In the meantime, the organization will take considerable hits to its reputation.

It all sounds alot like what’s happened before, when old media crashes headlong into new media, before it realizes that it lacks a roadmap for the not-so-new-by-now landscape. Instead of developing one, it decides to put up roadblocks, and only ends up encouraging the rest to find or create new detours.

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