AP Debuts Online Payments: Cash for Quotes

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):

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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.

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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:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. 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.

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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 . . .

12 Responses to “AP Debuts Online Payments: Cash for Quotes”

  1. Rafat Says:

    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. All this is tempest in a teacup, because, well, we all love beating down on AP these days…

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks Rafat. I was obviously unaware of this. Will update post. Hope you’re well.

  3. Jeff Sonderman Says:

    The roles that AP played in the print media system are either unnecessary or downright harmful online. http://bit.ly/svhTK

  4. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    I think this is utterly ridiculous and unenforcible!

    Completely flies in the face of the concept of fair use in my opinion. The long, long history of being allowed to use brief quotes to make new works is well-established. In fact, I think that much of our society would simply break down if we were unable to make brief quotes.

    At very least, raw information in of itself isn’t copywritable. So, even if the AP’s pay-per-quote (PPQ?!?) were enforcible, all that would result would be more paraphrasing on the part of everyone.

    Is this their “magic bullet” for their woes?

    They really need a handful of cutting-edge internet strategists to help them evolve their business models.

  5. Mike Bunnell Says:

    I wonder if they put this in place for mainly legal reasons, to help them prosecute those who engage in wholesale republishing of AP content (and not really as a profit center in itself).

    I’m not a lawyer, but it seems like this program accomplishes 2 things:
    1. It establishes that there is an avenue / AP policy readily available whereby authorized reprinting of AP content can be done. So a defendant can’t claim they didn’t know…
    2. It establishes a clear business value on the content, to be used in claims against wholesale republishers.

  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    Mike:

    Probably good summary of rationale

  7. Andrew Shotland Says:

    I can see some enterprising spammer starting to hit up blogs with official looking notices saying they are in violation and all they have to do is pay $12.50 to get in compliance.

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  10. Chriss Says:

    The form is very slick, clearly inspired by the Mac but with a hint of originality, certainly better than others and the old one!

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