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February 20, 2009



Joe: "Personally, I can't see how all five of these don't apply to any news organization that's writing a story that follows a "scoop" by a competitor."

The important element for you to consider is free riding (iii). By "re-tracing ... re-report[ing] and re-writ[ing]", you were expending effort and thus not free riding.

Joe Mullin


Thanks for your comment. The re-reporting certainly involves expended effort, but so does AHN's work, which is alleged to be mere re-writing.

I don't know what would meet the legal definition of "free riding," if there is one. But I do think some journalists definitely think of "re-reporting" as a kind of free riding, especially if the first article was an investigative or "think piece."

Finding the right sources--a particularly knowledgeable expert, the victim of a crime--can take a lot of reporting legwork. Not to mention just having an interesting story idea.

Ross Marci


The whole AP thing has been something I've been watching ever since they tried to take on bloggers.

The AP has certainly been trying to re-frame accepted fair use principles recently as you touched on before.

News people all the time make reference to stories written by others. I found some links on a Poynter

"AP No Angel In Copyright Fight"

It's also fair to say that AP engages in much of that same behaviour. Doesn't AP take quotes from others sometimes with nothing more than a "According to reports" attribution? ....and didn't AP offshore news operations to Bangalore?

Smells rotten to me... This really looks like AP is certainly just trying to crush a small competitor.. If I were AP I wouldn't want to go to a jury with this. They could end up losing big.

Davis Freeberg

The problem that I have with this lawsuit is that I don't believe that the AP would stop reporting news, if people are allowed to "misappropriate" their articles. There is a lot of value in being first and breaking a story and while not everyone is going to give you credit, enough will to make sure that the original content creators are recognized for their work.

To argue that reporting would somehow die without these protections seems suspect to me. Personally, I think that the AP is being pretty short sighted on this one. When they went after the bloggers, I decided to put a moratorium on links to the AP from my own social network. They probably don't care about the pitiful traffic I can send them from my blog, but there are plenty of other pitiful bloggers who understand what it means to be part of the larger conversation. While I can understand why Hollywood studio execs have struggled to move past their dinosaur era, I would have thought that journalists would be more progressive about the internet.

The AP has essentially taken on the role of the RIAA for print. In the short run, it may net them a few legal protections, but in the long run they're going to lose a big chunk of their readers, who enjoy the new media world that we live in.

If I was an AP member, I'd be doing a lot more than demanding fee reductions. Contrary to their arguments, it is their current management, not the AHN that are causing the damage to their brand.

Joe Mullin

Davis and Ross, thanks for the comments.

The AP's copyright spat with bloggers was certainly ham-handed. But, that didn't end up anywhere near a courtroom, and I think at this point any comparison with RIAA (with 30,000 copyright lawsuits to its name) is an overstatement.

I also think that if AP's allegations against AHN are true -- and it bears repeating they are only allegations -- AHN's business could look quite bad in a jury trial. Our culture has a very dim view of copying -- even the kind of copying that's perfectly legal.

Finally, like Davis, I am skeptical of how much AHN's business really hurts the AP's bottom line. If the AHN business model truly works as the AP describes it, I wonder who AHN's clients are.

Ross Marci


Interesting comments. And it raises a couple of questions.

Either AHN doesn't really operate like AP is alleging, and AP is simply trying to defame and crush a smaller competitor in the courts.


AP has declined so far that they are truly harmed by a small company. In which case, AP has so much more to worry about than a business like AHN's.

And Joe.. I agree that copying is bad, however news people refer and attribute news to other news entities all the time.... It is common and accepted and there are rules to this I am sure. Part of AP's suit was that AHN was attributing the Associated Press. AP called that a trademark violation, however if AHN didn't do that attribution it really would be plagiarism. Damned if you do and damned if you don't I guess.

But you know what I find as really interesting here.. so far the only valuable insight and commentary on this has come not from the Associated Press (who's articles on this lawsuit read like propaganda) or from AHN (who has not released any news) but from blogs and bloggers.

Ken L.

While there's an initial backlash against the AP, government protection of some of the fruits of newsgathering could help save journalism.

As newspapers die off as online eyeballs fail to support reporters' salaries, one option for some is a paid model like the WSJ.

If a company could hire 10 cheap writers to log onto every morning, re-write the pieces to avoid a pure copyright claim and post them on a free site, it would cost the Journal millions in lost revenues. If the real news gatherers have no ownership of their labor, then journalism is in trouble.

Just a thought.

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