Tag Archives: copyright

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Twelve dollars for five words? What is the Associated Press thinking?

I saw this on Reddit and had to comment. Follow this link. From now on if you want to quote an AP story in your blog, link to an AP headline, or email an article to your grandmother, this is the page they want you to see – including a price list that I’ll quote here:

Words Fees
5 – 25 $12.50
26 – 50 $17.50
51 – 100 $25.00
101 – 250 $50.00
251 and up $100.00

No, I am not making this up. The AP is really asking people to pay them $12.50 if they quote more than four words of any story. A nice long sentence with 26 words will cost you $17.50. Presumably this includes headlines, meaning the AP could come looking for cash if you even link to one of their stories with the relevant text.

Let’s put aside the fundamental misunderstanding of how the web works for a moment, and put it in terms that most journalists should understand: This pricing scheme amounts to prior constraint on any substantive criticism of the AP. One of the most important reasons we have fair use rights is to excerpt material for commentary or criticism. The AP says that this effort is directed against copyright infringement and sites that scrape and monetize their stories, but quoting 5, 25, even 50 words from an article is in most cases not copyright infringement–it’s attribution.

The AP runs stories on medical topics all the time. If a doctor wants to point out an error in an AP story on their blog, we had better hope they have the cash. Could you imagine being misidentified as the suspect in a crime, only to have the AP bill you when you point out the correction? It’s not like the AP never makes mistakes.

Heaven forbid someone working for a competing news agency wants to criticize the AP’s coverage for bias or political slant. That would require quoting sentences from many articles – perhaps thousands of dollars.

The AP even has the gall to quote prices for educational use. I’m sure the numerous Supreme Courts deciding Fair Use cases over the years would be pleased – it goes against all precedent, but hey, a coupon!

Outside of criticism, the AP’s own guidelines tell you why this is so important:

We should give the full name of a source and as much information as needed to identify the source and explain why he or she is credible. Where appropriate, include a source’s age; title; name of company, organization or government department; and hometown.

If we quote someone from a written document – a report, e-mail or news release — we should say so.

It’s just as important for writers in other media to use proper attribution. Writers should use direct quotes when it’s the fairest way to represent what someone else has said or written. How would the AP operate if every source they quoted demanded payment up front?

But, of course, they would never:

It means we don’t pay newsmakers for interviews, to take their photographs or to film or record them.

This makes me sad. I’m a big proponent of professional journalism and I hate to see newspapers in such dire straits. But if this is representative of what the industry plans to do, I’m not sure they have much of a chance.

No Baby News, Yet

I was hoping to have some exciting news about the newest addition to the Morrison family (as well as the subject of our huge internet baby name poll). Unfortunately the baby has it’s own plans and schedule. In the mean time, I thought I’d point out a couple of interesting Google-related articles and ask a question:

  • Google voice search is out for the iPhone, although for some reason it’s not at the App Store yet. Once it’s out, all you’ll need to do is load the app and say what you’re looking for, and Google will find it for you. Very cool. And some reporters are pointing out how cool it is that Google is still developing apps for other platforms while we have our own, the Android operating system seen on the G1.
  • Some sports and political figures in Argentina are suing to stop search engines from returning results for their names. That’s right – if you want to know anything about Diego Maradona, your search will return nothing but a message about a court order. This is, of course, a ridiculously backward take on copyright and publicity rights that flies in the face of logic and freedom of speech. Imagine going to a library and demanding they find and scissors-out every reference to Babe Ruth. I love Argentina, but any legal system that would let this sort of thing go on is pathetic.

And finally, here’s my question:

  • What the best way to send out a massive email to about 1,000 people? So many of the voters in the poll included their email address that I’m wondering if a gigantic CC: list is the way to go. Any ideas?

Why I am sharing my photos with a Creative Commons License

DSCN0563 I do a bit of amateur photography.  I’m not very strong technically and I don’t have particularly good equipment, but I enjoy finding interesting angles and compositions.  I’ve been putting up photos on Flickr for a while to share them with friends and the public.  I also have an account on Panoramio with some photos that show up in Google Earth.

No matter the particular photo site used, sharing photos online has been a great experience.  I’ve had a number of encouraging comments on my photos and people have emailed me to ask if they could use a photo in a report for school or a pamphlet for their non-profit.

When I signed up with Flickr I noticed they had options to add Creative Commons licenses to photos by default.  I’m more than happy to let people use my photos for noncommercial purposes, so why didn’t turn on Creative Commons licensing from the start?

Part of it was the number of options available.  Creative Commons licensing allows other people to share your work but it’s not the same thing as releasing the copyright or putting photos in the public domain.  You have some options:  do you want people to be able to make money off your work, or do you just want it available for non-profits, educational, and personal use?  Do you want people to be able to alter and remix your work or just present it as-is?

DSCF0662 So I was a bit struck by the paradox of choice and decided to skip ahead and start uploading photos.  In retrospect, that was a mistake.

There’s a great page at the Creative Commons site that explains the options.  I am going to license my photos with an Attribution Non-commercial (by-nc) license.  That license covers my default attitude about my amateur photography – everyone is welcome to use my photos for non-commercial purposes, so long as they give me credit. This is, of course, in addition to fair use rights that people already have.

Another important point:  it doesn’t mean people can’t use it commercially, they just have to contact me and get permission.  Depending on the use, I might put a price on it.  And I can always sell prints or make products myself.

I might even switch over to allow commercial use as well, if I can get over my delusions of being the next Ansel Adams.

San Francisco skyline and flowers The abuse and incessant extension of copyright might not seem like a life-or-death issue, but it’s one of those issues where technology and public policy are inextricably linked.  It’s like the problem of software and business method patents.  There’s a great story by Spider Robinson that illustrates what happens if taken to extremes.

So take a look at the licenses and consider applying the appropriate copyleft to your work.