AP — Lost in Cyberspace

In a lawsuit that epitomizes the sheer stupidity of the Old Media, and its complete ignorance of the new technology, the Associated Press is suing news-aggregation site Moreover — and parent company VeriSign — for copyright infringement for linking to its copyrighted material. The specific complaint, apparently, is that Moreover uses the lead in whatever story it links to as a means to entice the reader to click on the link and read the whole thing.

More than demonstrating complete ignorance of fair use laws, and utter cluelessness as to how the internet works, the thinking behind the lawsuit, if implemented consistently, would have put a stop to all footnoted quotations in scholarly works: after all, the authors “own” their own words and a footnote is nothing but the pre-internet equivalent of a link.

Working for Antiwar.com, a site that, in some sense, is also a news aggregator site — the model is Drudge – I really connected with this piece by Rich Ord, founder of NewsLynx:

“I remember getting personal calls and emails from virtually every site I linked to including the Wall Street Journal, Time Warner, L.A. Times and many others. The calls and emails usually started with the question, “Do you have permission to link to our articles?” Old media legal departments were clearly very green with the Internet. My typical response was, ‘No, we don’t have permission and if you would like us to stop linking and driving traffic to your site just let me know. However, we feel we have every right to link to your articles without permission because the Internet itself is based on the concept of linking.'”

If you only knew the headaches this non-issue has given us over the years. To have to deal with such clods, clumsy dinosaurs stumbling their way to extinction, went with the job. Didn’t they know we were doing them a favor by sending them traffic?

It isn’t just the Old Media mavens who just don’t get it. We had one idiot, the former Trotsky disciple-turnedneocon -turned Muslim Stephen Schwartz, who threatened to sue us for linking to a photo of his ugly mug. That photo, he screeched, isn’t our property. Well, uh, no, it isn’t – but by putting it out there on the internet, the owner voluntarily made it accessible to the world. To post it, and then object when someone stumbles  on it, is like parading around naked in front of an open window, and then complaining that your “privacy” has been violated when people begin to stare.  

The AP lawsuit represents a direct threat to the First Amendment, in that it would, in principle, lead to outlawing links without first signing some sort of agreement with the linked site. I share the concern expressed by Ord in his piece:

“What would be of concern to Google, Drudge and many others is a rogue ruling by a not-so-Internet-savvy Federal Judge that would put real restrictions on linking to news. So far, the prevailing standard has been the legal concept of fair use. Hopefully, this case is assigned to a judge who realizes that the Internet is based on links. The use of an article title and short summary has been considered fair use in past cases. However, I am not sure if the use of smaller versions of copyrighted pictures regularly used by Google News and Drudge will withstand this fair use test.”

One of the arguments being used by AP lawyers is that journalism schools teach entire courses on how to write a good lead sentence — and “stealing” them (by quoting them) ought to be a crime. Taking the argument further, we could argue that headline-writing is also a valuable art, entire courses are built around it, and to steal a headline and couple it with a link to the original material amounts to copyright infringement.

You can see where this is going. But pay-per-link is not a template that fits into the technology of the internet. Let them put up a Times-Select wall — you know, like the one that just came down — and they’ll find themselves completely isolated, lost in cyber-space, unvisited as well as unloved.

7 thoughts on “AP — Lost in Cyberspace”

  1. There should be a movement to give them what they want. Their reporting (mainstream media) for the most part has sunk to a quality level not worth propping up anyways.

    Once they see the traffic start to dry up and advertisers running for the hills, they will quickly clue in to the world of the Internet.

  2. It is a pity that the neocons just can’t get over Trotsky not only losing out to Stalin, but to add insult to injury, Leon gets his head cleaved with an ice ax.

  3. I thought some stupid judge had already ruled a few years ago in favor of a litigant who sued someone who linked into his/its site.

  4. If you took the time to read the complaint you’d realize its not about linking. AP claims Moreover are distributing full stories to their customers, not just links and teasers.

    1. If that is the complaint, it is totally without merit.

      I have used Moreover for a couple of years, and they only distribute the headline and a one-line summary. Each item includes a link that opens the original source in a new window.

  5. AP should wake up and realize that old media is no longer sacrosanct in the new media world. As long as Moreover is linking to the original articles, and after I have perused their site, I can vouch that they are… what is AP so worried about? Maybe they are worried that the new media venues will expose them enough to uncover the truth. Maybe they are afraid the truth will be known, they are actually paid to report biased news, and they are censoring other news. Net neutrality beautifully balances all information, without bias. That is why it is becoming the communication source of choice.

    Our website is dedicated to uncovering the truth through humor. http://www.blimptv.net

  6. Freedom’s Phoenix has had the same complaints from the print media … you are violating our copyrights by not seeking permission to link to us. This has always seem to come from their Internet editor though, often with a threat of taking legal action if not rectified.

    Of course, like you, we complied immediately, and sent them a note to the effect tat from now on we would not be driving any traffic to their site, often copying as many e-mail addresses of upper management as we could find. We never once had anyone e-mailing back they had mad a mistake.

    DOA indeed. There are always other fish in the sea.

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