image What do you think, gang? One isolated case or a major threat to blogs and community sites? Is it okay for them to pick up leads and headlines from the big guys?

The Associated Press has issued DMCA takedown orders against Drudge Retort—that’s with two t’s in the second word—for allegedly violating copyright laws and engaging in ‘"hot news’ misappropriation under New York state law." Here’s an AP take-down letter along with the Retort’s "Full summary of the alleged infringement" (added 2:25 p.m.). Later  I’ll reproduce the full text of a response that AP graciously shared with me after the first version of this post, though I’m still concerned because of the issue of how much a blog can quote AP without being DMCA bait.

If Drudge Retort, Rogers Cadenhead‘s liberal version of Drudge Report, goes to court and loses, this could even have nasty repressions for interactive e-books, which, after all, could be hosting blogs and forums. And what about sites such as NewsTrust, which let community members critique the media, and which will reproduce headlines and pick up snippets, even if they may not be leads? Speaking of which, will blogs someday have to police commenters to prevent them from using even small excerpts?

Going after the New York Times next? Hardly! Media bullies at work

imageAll kinds of related issues exist. Are on-on-fly links fine but not regular ones? And when you link to a headline and  reproduce a lead, as Drudge Retort does, are you helping or hurting the linkee? I say helping, by driving traffic to the target site and giving it some Google juice.

Could the AP’s actions be part of the old media’s war against the new? It’s more complicated than that. Smarter news giants actually encourage this kind of thing and themselves are in the news aggregation business. I’m a big fan of the New York Times Company‘s Blogrunner, for example, and guess what? It’s pulling in headlines and leads from other newspapers and Web site. See screenshot below. Does the Times have expressed permission from linkees like the Washington Post?

image Bottom line: The AP has done many clueful things, and in fact, I’d hate for it to go out of business, given all the synergies between old and new media. But this is a classic case of a media Goliath begging for a well-placed stone in the forehead. Who will the AP pick on next? The New York Times Company? Or just little sites without the same legal resources? Meanwhile the current episode is tainting the image of the AP as a news cooperative, especially one that itself may be in problematic situations at times when it uses material from nonmembers. Stop it, AP! Don’t sue; adjust your business model.

Where I’d empathize with AP (added at 2:24): Some commercial sites are reproducing TeleBlog posts in their entirety with just a link at the bottom. I’m not talking about aggregrators but Google-ad-platform sites. But that’s different from noncommercial use or just excerpts. AP seems to be unnerved even by relatively brief excerpts. Come, guys—I want you to thrive. If the economics are right, I myself would be open to licensing arrangements to allow use of certain AP content that TeleBlog readers will never see without your authorization.

Related: Gawker item and Techmeme roundup, complete with reproduced leads..

AP response to us and other bloggers follows.

From Jim Kennedy, VP and director of strategy for AP:

AP wants to fill in some facts and perspective on its recent actions with the Drudge Retort, and also reassure those in the blogosphere about AP’s view of these situations. Yes, indeed, we are trying to protect our intellectual property online, as most news and content creators are around the world. But our interests in that regard extend only to instances that go beyond brief references and direct links to our coverage.

The Associated Press encourages the engagement of bloggers — large and small — in the news conversation of the day. Some of the largest blogs are licensed to display AP stories in full on a regular basis. We genuinely value and encourage referring links to our coverage, and even offer RSS feeds from www.ap.org, as do many of our licensed customers.

We get concerned, however, when we feel the use is more reproduction than reference, or when others are encouraged to cut and paste. That’s not good for original content creators; nor is it consistent with the link-based culture of the Internet that bloggers have cultivated so well.

In this particular case, we have had direct and helpful communication with the site in question, focusing only on these issues.

So, let’s be clear: Bloggers are an indispensable part of the new ecosystem, but Jeff Jarvis’ call for widespread reproduction of wholesale stories is out of synch with the environment he himself helped develop. There are many ways to inspire conversation about the news without misappropriating the content of original creators, whether they are the AP or fellow bloggers.