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AP-Blogger War Reflects Looming Death Of Newspapers

By James Donahue

A highly publicized legal dispute between Associated Press and the news blog site Drudge Retort over that site’s use of short quotations of copyright AP stories and direct links to AP articles has triggered what appears to be an Internet war of words and law between that news outlet and the hundreds, if not thousands of bloggers who appear affected.

While Drudge Retort announced a settlement with lawyers for AP over any infractions, the issue has triggered broad commentary among the news bloggers who feel intimidated and angry by the way the news agency has slammed the door on any blog reference to, quote from, or link to its news content.

AP is a non-profit cooperative owned by about 1,500 daily newspapers that subscribe to its services. It is directed by a board of directors. All of the member newspapers contribute news stories to the cooperative, which are moved over a wire service and shared by participating newspapers.

At least that is the way Associated Press was operating prior to the advent of the news bloggers who are operating freely on the World Wide Web. As more and more newspapers and television news programs fall prey to such bias thinkers as Rupert Murdock, and the cover-up of government corruption by the major news outlets becomes more and more apparent, people are turning to the Internet to get their news.

Such blog sites as Daily Kos, the Brad Blog, Alternet, the Raw Story, Truthout and many others too numerous to include in this list, are opening the door to a new line of fine writers, journalists, columnists and investigative reporters as an outlet and get their work in print. Since many of these blogs are operating without the financial support of big corporate advertisers, they are free to allow open expression of information and opinion.

As this is happening, we are seeing reports that newspapers are losing circulation. As more and more readers turn away from news print and turn to the Internet for their news, it is obvious that newspapers are feeling the sting. When circulation is down, advertising revenues drop. That means profits are down. Many of us in the field perceive the newspaper as a dying institution that had its day but is no longer an effective tool for assessing news in today’s high-tech world.

We should not be surprised, then, when a cooperative representing 1,500 daily newspapers chooses to take a swipe at blogs that are using even brief quotes from AP stories to build news stories. They see it as competition that threatens their very existence.

Larger Internet news outlets like Yahoo and Google freely use AP stories and are obvious subscribers to this service. But these are big corporations that have the money to spend for this kind of information. The small blogger, operated by a few dedicated news junkies in somebody’s garage or rented apartment, can’t afford that luxury. Nor should they have to. The mere linking of stories, or quoting from AP stories, falls within the fair use exception to copyright law. And as some bloggers argue, the fact that a story is linked should be considered a favor. It means that anyone who clicks on that link will be going into the AP site where the story is posted.

The AP crackdown will have an impact on news bloggers everywhere, and there are many of us. That is because linking to news articles with short quotes is a common practice throughout the web. If AP threatens litigation against Drudge Retort for doing something we are all doing, it means any of us could be hearing from their lawyers soon.

Our recourse is to do exactly what Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch has proposed. All news bloggers are simply banning Associated Press stories and links from our sites. We believe this may have a profound impact on readership, especially on newspaper Internet sites that subscribe to AP services.

Not using AP stories won’t have much of an effect on the blog news. There are so many sources of information available on line that the Associated Press is to us, only a small puddle in an ocean of news. The only problem for us is that we will have to always be on the watch to make sure the link we select is not predicated by that familiar post (AP).

Wrote Arrington: “Here’s our new policy on AP stories: they don’t exist. We don’t see them, we don’t quote them, we don’t link to them. They’re banned until they abandon this new staratedy, and I encourage others to do the same until they back down from these ridiculous attempts to stop the spread of information around the Internet.”