There is a huge story brewing that covers the intersection of mainstream news and blogging. Associated Press (AP) decided to crack down on what they felt were copyright violations by blogs quoting AP stories. Spoof site “The Drudge Retort” is under legal fire from AP, and this has prompted action by other blogs that coudld become one of the most interesting developments in the history of blogging and news. AP has backed off somewhat from its initial reaction and is now offering guidelines for blogs using their stories, but this is too little too late in the eyes of many prominent bloggers.
The world’s top tech blog, TechCrunch, has called for support of the boycott of AP stories – telling bloggers to stop linking to AP stories until they change the new policy and stop threatening to sue blogs.
Here’s a somewhat different perspective from Jeff Jarvis who probably did more to get the ball rolling on this than anybody. His concerns seem to be more that AP is hypocritical and opportunistic about copyright and linking. I do like Jeff’s idea that the key metric for compliance with good practices in blogging and journalism should be a *link* to the original material along with reasonable other attribution.
Although the story is interesting from the perspective of the changing interpretations of fair use and copyright legalities, this also represents what I think is the first large scale test of the influence of blogging on mainstream news outlets. If the boycott catches on the effect on AP will be very interesting to watch, and probably costly enough for AP in terms of stunting traffic and incoming links that they will revise the policy very quickly. The big winner here will probably be Reuters which will see a huge swell in links from high authority blogs. This has the potential to have a very positive long term affect for Reuters, especially with respect to Google rankings for very valuable technology news terms but also for the Reuters site in general.
It will also be interesting to watch how AP covers the story of its own decisions. I need to read up more before forming an opinion on this but I’m guessing AP’s guidelines are not all that excessive or unreasonable, rather AP is just missing the point that the benefits to AP from new media news and blogs far outweigh the challenges they will face from copyright violations.
As usual the blogging community is quick to attack attackers without giving enough thought to their reasonable concerns about flagrant copyright violations with no attribution to original authors or sources. It would be nice if in conjunction with the AP story boycott bloggers would work *twice as hard* to give MORE attribution to original sources. I’ve found myself in disagreement about this with other blogs but I continue to think the solution is to make it standard form to provide a link to original material you reference in your blog. This was standard practice in the early days, but as links became the key currency of the web people stopped using them as much, and started using them more strategically.