Thanks to Tim Cohn for pointing out AP’s (apparently new) online form that makes it easy for you to pay them for even very short excerpts and quotations. I had not seen this before (see update below):
Here’s what it would cost me to cite a relatively small amount of text from the article “NRA opposition fails to sway senators on Sotomayor” — $17.50.
Given how many AP articles I’ve cited and quoted, I would probably have been liable for perhaps thousands of dollars in fees over the past three and a half years that I’ve been blogging. Linking to a headline (such as I did above) is presumably covered by this: 5-25 words costs $12.50. Educational and non-profit fees are somewhat less.
While this form may facilitate payment for commercial uses of AP’s content, the question of fair use immediately arises. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago when AP was doing all its saber rattling:
Here’s the legal test as laid out in Wikipedia through which a court determines whether some content use is fair or a copyright violation:
- the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- the nature of the copyrighted work;
- the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
- the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
This aggressive policy flies in the face of the Internet’s culture of reciprocal linking. It may also run afoul of existing copyright law.
What this will do is start shutting down use of AP content on third party non-licensee sites (unless they’re looking to be provocative). We’re likely to see some litigation around this pretty soon, either a preemptive action for “declaratory relief” or in the context of AP suing someone refusing to pay. That will be good because the Internet needs clear rules about fair use: what’s permitted and what can be charged for.
While this “cash for quotes” effort may deter references to AP articles in many cases (if it stands) it will clearly not solve the problems of the newspaper industry or make newspaper sites more lucrative or popular than they are today.
Update: PaidContent’s Rafat Ali clarifies that the system has been in use since April of this year:
This has been in place since April, and many sites including Reuters.com, The Independent (UK), Investors Business Daily, Toronto Star and others use the iCopyright system. AP, IBD and others decided to turn on the excerpting part, Reuters and others haven’t. All of them are using a standard excerpted pricing template that the third party system allows. Firstly, I doubt they’re earning any significant money through this. Secondly, I very much doubt AP will go after individual sites/bloggers on this; in fact I know they won’t, speaking to sources inside . . .