UPDATED:The AP vs….well, Everybody: Can’t Media New and Old Make Nice?

Maybe it’s the humidity?

The blogosphere seems to be full of crankiness lately- more big name bad-feeling match-ups than any given roman-numeraled Wrestlemania.

But the headliner would have to be Old Media vs. New Media.

How the Mess Began
Last week The Associated Press contacted a news aggregation site – parodically-named the Drudge Retort – and told its founder Rogers Cadenhead to remove several posts featuring short quotes from AP stories. And we’re talking short- as noted by Jeff Jarvis in his passionate and rather incendiary post FU AP:

The AP has filed truly noxious takedown notices against Rogers Cadenhead’s community-created Drudge Retort, arguing copyright violations for quotes from 33 to 79 words long.

As journalists have long been espousing freedom of the press and such, the AP’s actions seem counterintuitive, if not a tad hypocritical. That is, until you remember that the AP is a wire service and it makes money by charging various news outlets in various cities a somewhat hefty fee for access to its services.

AP’s P-O-V

From the Old Media point-of-view, New Media gets in AP’s way and makes its services less alluring because, many people will not go on to AP but instead settle for the news from a blog or two or twenty. And once a news story has been picked up and blogged about it tends to spread like wildfire across the Internet. The result?

As noted in a nifty piece for MSNBC and Newsweek by Helen A. S. Popkin, the result is “diminishing the AP product’s value to the media outlet paying the AP bill.”

That’s why the AP has its knickers in a twist.

New Media’s Response

As you can guess, AP’s actions were not warmly received. The guardian.co.uk‘s Jemima Kiss detailed some of the more interesting responses including Cadenhead’s assertion that “sharing links to news stories of interest has ‘become an essential part of how millions of people read an evaluate the news today.'”

Even more riveting has been TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington’s reaction to this. First he announced that his influential blog would boycott the AP in return.

Then yesterday he posted a piece entitled The A. P. has Violated My Copyright, And I Demand Justice. The gist of the post was that the AP had quoted 22 words from one of the TechCrunch posts and as such had violated the standards for copyright infringement to which they are holding bloggers:

“Am I being ridiculous? Absolutely. But the point is to illustrate that the A. P. is taking an absurd and indefensible position too.”

He’s also going to bill them what they allegedly would have billed him for publishing a 22 word quote from one of their pieces on his blog, among other measures. And as of this writing, he’d received 163 comments, overwhelmingly supporting him.

Can Anything Good Come from Something Called MBA?

The answer in this case is possibly.

According to today’s PR Week (US), AP was set to meet with representatives of the Media Bloggers Association. (I must admit I’ve never heard of them- but I am fairly new to blogging. However, I would like to know who voted and decided that these folks speak for bloggers? Anyone? I’d love to know more about how they were picked to represent the blogosphere.)

But, returning to the place where this all started, Rogers Cadenhead found what some might consider a silver lining in all this stormy debating: potential guidelines for bloggers.

“If the AP does produce something substantive here, it will let thousands of bloggers know how to responsibly handle these stories….We are looking for guidelines, and since there’s a symbiotic relationship between blogs and news media, a lot of people would embrace that.”

New + Old Media=Much Stronger than New vs. Old Media.

What Cadenhead touched on there is absolutely key. There is a mutually-beneficial relationship between Old and New Media that’s been much more eloquently summed up by InfoWorld‘s Robert X. Cringely:

“Blogs need people who know how to do reporting; the AP needs the kind of viral distribution only the blogosphere can bring. We need to figure out a way we can all get along here, lest we all perish in the copyright wars.”

But as necessary as this is, is it still possible? Can we all get along?

What are your ideas as to how the representatives of Old Media and New Media could work things out? And don’t we have to redefine the whole idea of copyright in our wired world? Is the AP making a last stand against inevitable change or will their actions have lasting impact? Or has the New Media’s response become sort of blogger’s version “Shot Heard ‘Round the World?”

And, ultimately, does all this crankiness come down to the humidity?

UPDATE: Rogers Cadenhead has stated that AP has settled with Drudge Retort. And apparently AP will be releasing some sort of guidelines for bloggers based on discussions with the MBA. But, as Cadenhead has noted, the fair use issues that brought this about are still in play even if the dispute itself is over. And the news about the guidelines isn’t inspiring a lot of confidence either:

“On a social news site that’s still manageable in size, like the 8,500-member Drudge Retort, it’s possible to steer bloggers away from potential conflicts with media organizations by working directly with users. But 25 million people visited a social news site last month, and thousands of people are sharing news links in a way that’s in direct conflict with AP’s interpretation of fair use regarding the headlines and leads of its articles.

If AP’s guidelines end up like the ones they shared with me, we’re headed for a Napster-style battle on the issue of fair use.”


7 comments so far

  1. We started Blogger AP/Tea Party. It’s not a matter of not playing nice; it’s a matter of the AP not having a leg to stand on from a legal standpoint:

    The Rationale

    The Campaign

    Happy rebelling, my friend

    Ps. Tell everyone.

  2. abbymartin on


    Thank you for the comment (and the links- interesting reading indeed! You seem like you’re very much in agreement with Jeff Jarvis’s call to action in response to AP’s actions. )

    Yes, the AP overstepped for sure. I think maybe they felt their livelihood might be threatened and they wildly overreacted. As someone who has worked as a journalist and now blogs, I can see both sides of the story. But I can also clearly see that AP didn’t handle this well at all. The word “Draconian” comes to mind…

    BTW- I *love* your signature line. What a wonderful sentiment! 😉


  3. Old Copyright Hand on

    AP is just the tip of an iceberg that will either melt or make problems of more than Titanic proportions. The whole matter of copyright, protection of authors, etc, is out of joint with the realities of today. Until global copyright conventions are rethought and made reasonable, the AP problem will happen again and again. Nobody will win and everybody who creates or publishes anything that is able to be reproduced will be in a difficult debate about who pays whom for what and in what circumstances.

  4. abbymartin on

    Hi OCH. Welcome.

    Yours is an incredibly valid point and I thank you for making it. But how do we even begin to go about rethinking copyright? Obviously we need to- but each country has its own conventions (don’t even get me started on fair use vs. fair trade etc.) and who would lead such an initiative?

    Yes, it is NEEDED but how -and who- would get the ball rolling on this?


  5. Old Copyright Hand on

    This problem once faced Charles Dickens, who responded by going on an American tour to get his point of view across. Authors who are watching food go off the table need help from others; and bloggers have to learn that some people — obviously not AP — go without so that they can get royalties later if they are lucky. But there have been Universal Copyright Conventions (meaning rules not meetings) and there can be again.

    By the way, on a tangent, but on point also, do you know that if you are not in Canada, you can’t see the Colbert bit you referenced in a previous post?

  6. abbymartin on


    well, that in part was why the TV writers went on strike (and that worked out well for exactly…nobody.) But I do agree that we need Universal Copyright Conventions.

    Oddly, the video comment you made fits into this discussion. Regional rights. I can’t watch any content from Hulu in Canada due to rights issues, nor can I watch new episodes of Dr. Who on the BBC’s UK website. (I have to wait- interminably – for the episodes to make it across the pond for broadcast.) That’s all about licensing and copyright too. Alas.

  7. Ironic on

    Isn’t this always the way?
    Paper vs. Radio
    Radio vs. TV
    TV vs. Online

    I’m waiting for a time when it becomes online vs. word of mouth.

    Of course the issue now is with oversaturation. When it was the paper, people believed it. It HAD to be true.
    Radio changed it slightly, but it was TV that screwed us all.
    24 hour news networks make conjecture and are filling time. I will never forget CNN needing to be first on the whole Martha Stewart trial, so they had a guy using Semiform to contact the reporter. What?
    Beyond that, with so much information out there, most of it can (and should) be treated as misinformation.
    I still find it fascinating that WIKIPEDIA (FOR GOD’S SAKE) was the first to report Tim Russert’s death.

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