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Monday, June 16, 2008

Hey AP, come on, get me!

Associated Press (AP) hates linking. As a blogger, I love it. Why? It drives traffic, keeps my context live and my post relevant. And, I don’t even write for profit. I just want my opinion to be published and read and reacted upon. AP does it for a living. It needs numbers and if readers like what comes along from AP, they might be its future subscribers and patrons. So it has all the more reason why it should love or at least, not object to linking. But last week it did the unthinkable – it went ahead and complained against Drudge Retort with a take-down request under DMCA.

Nobody gets away messing with blogosphere. AP learnt it the hard way getting thumped down. There were rebuffs, retorts and more fulminations. After getting righteously ripped across the blogosphere for demanding that the satire site Drudge Retort remove seven brief excerpts of AP stories, the organization decided that its letter was ham-fisted and that it would rethink its policy on bloggers and links.

As I see it, the fair-use exceptions have been established by law and judicial interpretation; individual copyright holders don't get to create a custom version. AP is welcome to go through the exercise, but in the end, it would have to convince a judge that headline-and-blurb links back to its content and its clients causes it financial damage, an argument that is both dubious and counterintuitive. Let's say it again, though we shouldn't have to. Reposting full text of copyright material is a Bad Thing. Posting a link to copyright material and enough of an excerpt to encourage a click-through is a Good Thing. It drives traffic, raises visibility and weaves the source material into an ongoing conversation. Getting linked is what you want to happen to your content.

The best take for me was that of Michael Arrington - "Here's our new policy on A.P. stories: they don't exist. We don't see them, we don't quote them [and] we don't link to them. They're banned until they abandon this new strategy, 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." This, of course, will have about the same impact as those periodic calls for a gas boycott, but still, it's a message AP really needs to get its head around as it works on the next write-through.

If AP finds runways slippery, it should abort landing or takeoff to avoid runway overshoots. Not all excursions could be easy. [Yikes! I linked to AP through Yahoo again!... now come on, get me:)]

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