The Drudge Retort is similar in nature to communities like Digg, or Reddit. Members often post short excerpts and links to news stories.
Associated Press objects to what they say is infringement of copyright. AP does not seem to recognize the Fair Use doctrine of US copyright law, which allows for limited use of copyrighted material, without permission, for purposes of review, criticism, or scholarship.
Fair Use may not apply in all cases where someone excerpts an AP article, yet this essential doctrine of US copyright law, which derives from our First Amendment right of free speech, cannot be disregarded. Content providers have intellectual property rights that must be protected, but this must not be done at the cost of our constitutionally guaranteed free speech rights.
The DMCA criminalizes certain uses of technology which circumvent copyright or which disseminate copyrighted material. Bloggers who excerpt copyrighted material are risking criminal prosecution and civil liability if their usage does not meet the nebulous requirements spelled out by the Fair Use doctrine. Even if the usage should comply with the Fair Use doctrine, it must be understood that Fair Use is a defense against charges of copyright violation. It is no protection against having to argue that defense in a court of law. When faced with a DMCA takedown notice and a charge of copyright violation, most bloggers will remove the disputed material without an attempt to legally defend their usage of it.
Large corporations are using the federal government to enforce their intellectual property rights, to the detriment of our free speech rights. The threat of legal consequences has a chilling effect upon free and open public discourse. As bloggers, we will be less likely to excerpt from an AP article, even when it deserves detailed criticism and line-by-line refutation. Whatever propaganda AP should distribute would go unchallenged by the citizenry, unless we are prepared to defend Fair Use.
I’m asking contributors to the FPC blog to voluntarily boycott AP stories. Let’s find alternate sources when we need to quote or link an article. If it is the AP’s position that Fair Use does not exist, and that we should pay Associated Press a licensing fee if we wish to quote as few as five words, then we should stop driving internet traffic to their site.
However, this boycott doesn’t apply if it is an AP story itself that should merit criticism, (e.g. for bias or inaccuracy). We should excerpt it as needed for critical analysis, having care to abide by the doctrine of Fair Use. We should not bow to DMCA takedown notices, were we to face them. We should prepare for the necessity of defending our free speech rights in court.
Links related to this developing story:
Update: 5 Words – Florida Netroots … meowmissy delivers her cogent and concise take on the AP snafu, adding some very relevant excerpts and links, and discovers a way we can all have “a little fun with this mess” by composing a 5 word response to the AP.