I have met the enemy … you know the rest

Seems AP is taking a page from the RIAA in challenging web sites that excerpt their articles. They are filing take down notices with blog sites they deem to be violating their copyright. Naturally, many bloggers are up in arms. There are a couple of issues here for me, not the least of which is the concept of an old-style media business trying to fight the future by trying to prevent it from happening. But first, a couple of stories.

Almost every day, during my years as a reporter, I or one of my colleagues were asked to do a “localization.” That meant we would take a national story that indicated a trend and get a local angle on it. Most often, that national slant came via an AP article. Sometimes we didn’t cite AP at all, but I guess that was OK because we were subscribers. I hated doing stories like this.

During my days as a photo editor I was party to a different AP practice. We would frequently be called and asked to provide a photo to AP, often at the request of another member newspaper. We knew that other member was most often a nearby competitor and we seeded our photos with outs to indicate such nearby rags were NOT permitted to use our work. Heck, if they wanted photos they could have sent their own people. But an AP editor would call one of our top editors and then we would be told to cough up the picture(s). When we complained because the competing newspaper hijacked our image, AP told us they couldn’t do anything. When we complained because the picture carried an AP credit, they said: tough. You see, AP has a policy of replacing the credit on every image it sends across the wires with its own. That isn’t a copyright violation, apparently, because we are subscribers and the contract compels us to regularly drop trou and grab our ankles at the Associated Press’ request.

Long story short, borrowing without credit is a typical newspaper/AP business practice. Which makes their complaint more than a little hypocritical.

But their position is also idiotic. Quoting an AP article can help bring an audience to AP. Slapping down those who draw attention to AP won’t help bring an audience (at least a happy one) to AP. Given the place old-style organizations like AP are currently occupying, chasing away an audience doesn’t seem prudent.

But as Jeff Jarvis points out, the whole concept of AP may have passed it usefulness. In the old days AP was the distribution network for articles. Sure they wrote some of their own, but most of their business was passing articles around from member newspapers. That they took credit for them even though they didn’t create them wasn’t considered a big deal because otherwise none of us could get those articles to fill our pages.

Today the internet not only does that distribution job better, it can allow users to go to the source rather than accept a bastardized and borrowed AP version. Jarvis rightly says it is always better to go to the source. And with the internet anyone can set up a network that allows sharing of those articles that come directly from the source.

AP apparently doesn’t get it. They seem intent on gouging our their eyes and cutting off their tongue in the hope of saving face. Good luck with that. And good riddance.


2 Responses to “I have met the enemy … you know the rest”

  1. June 14, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    AP meet Sir Tim; Sir Tim meet AP…


    Enjoyed your views on LoudonExtra.com… just keep drilling down further right to the front door and the school gates, IMHO.


  2. 2 outsider222
    June 25, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Apparently AP has finally gotten hip to the blogosphere, and it makes them nervous. All of these bloggers are happily doing their work for everyone, and doing it for free.

    Brave new world. 😉

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