Associated Press Cracking Down on People Using Its Content ‘for Free’


The Associated Press (AP) is not making any friends in the bloghesphere as it continues to hunt down people using any of its headlines and content without paying for it.

AP is the biggest news service in the world, producing articles, photos, and video for public consumption through paid subscriptions by newspapers, radio, TV, and online broadcasters. Unfortunately for bloggers and small news sites, using news aggregators that contain AP material and anything else that AP produces without having a subscription to its service, can land them in court.

Earlier this month, the online news site AHN (All Headlines News) had settled to pay AP an undisclosed amount of money in damages to the news conglomerate. The AHN case is the second high profile case this year where AP sued people for using its content. The most notable case has been AP’s lawsuit against Shepard Fairey, the graphic designer that created the famed “Hope” poster of Barack Obama’s image.

In the two cases the AP claimed that both AHN and Fairey violated copyright and intellectual property rights. The AP claimed that ANH was re-writing their articles without giving the AP credit, and that Fairey’s poster was based on a photo of Obama that an AP photographer had shot. AHN and Fairey argue that they could use AP’s material under “fair use.” AHN lost that claim, but Fairey is still fighting AP in court.

Meanwhile, in its efforts to further crack down on “violators,” the AP is going full steam ahead with using new technology to catch people freeloading on its material. According to a report on Monday by the tech site, WIRED, the AP has announced that it will use special HTML code that will be traceable by the news organization.

This is a snippet from the WIRED article:

The AP said it would implement hNews. It’s a kind of html code embedded in news stories that lets news publishers tell browsers and search engines who wrote a story, where it was written, what the story’s headline is, when a story was published and what kind of copyright is attached to the story.

By adding these structured and agreed-upon codes to the underside of online news pages, search engines can make more sense of the stories and news junkies can search for news by time, date or author. (Other microformats that are widely accepted include hCard, a way to embed detailed contact info in a web page.)

AP’s aggressive move to sue people they claim use their content for free, has been driven by the dying newspaper industry as well as a drop in online ad revenue, according to many critics. Rumor has it that news organizations subscribed to the AP are choosing not to use its services because subscriptions are very expensive. These same organizations were thrilled last December when CNN debuted its new news wire service – one alternative to AP’s monopoly.

Professor Jay Jarvis, author of the book “What Would Google Do?” wrote a commentary on the Huffington Post on Monday, saying that AP is only hurting itself with its business approach.

The AP would rather destroy the link economy. Oh, it probably won’t succeed, just because what it suggests is so impractical and illegal and ultimately undemocratic and unconstitutional. But like a bull in a knowledge shop, it could do a lot of damage along the way, trying to rewrite the fair use that is the basis of the democratic conversation and rushing its members to even earlier graves by hiding their content from the readers it is meant to serve. Note well that most news organizations depend upon fair use every day when they quote somebody else’s story or comment on somebody else’s content. The AP is dangerous.

To read more about the AP and it’s practices, click on the links below.

AP Issues Strict Facebook, Twitter Guidelines To Staff

AP Defeats Online Aggregator


2 Responses to Associated Press Cracking Down on People Using Its Content ‘for Free’

  1. uncajoe July 29, 2009 at 4:44 am

    Perhaps the makers of the flag in the background should sue AP.

    • Gilbert Mercier
      Gilbert Mercier July 29, 2009 at 7:02 am

      Yes, exactly!

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