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AP, bloggers clash over wire content use

- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2008

The ongoing war between the traditional "old" media and Internet-driven "new" media has gotten noisier, with peace and common ground still elusive.

The Associated Press wants bloggers who cite more than four words of any AP story to start paying for it at the rate of $2.50 a word, just like any other news organization.

A single blogger was the catalyst. The wire service recently sent "take-down" notices to Rogers Cadenhead, creator of the "Drudge Retort," a liberal answer to the much visited "Drudge Report" - asking him to remove six online posts that included AP content in any form, or risk charges of copyright infringement.

Mr. Cadenhead, who had used between 33 and 79 words from the AP in his dispatches, contended it was "fair use" of the material, in accordance with law. Still, he contacted the Media Bloggers Association (MBA), an industry group, seeking input on resolving a situation that seemed to have few viable protocols in place for bloggers, social networking sites and other online outlets.

But Mr. Cadenhead had many sympathizers. His plight immediately resonated with scores of high-profile bloggers from across the political spectrum, and they struck back by calling for an Internet-wide boycott of the AP print and broadcast content, framing the wire service as a brute and demanding redress.

Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin suggested bloggers bill the AP if their own work has ever been mentioned by the AP. She figured the wire service owed her $132,125 after applying its own payment standards to citations of her work included in the AP stories.

"The Internet firestorm over the Associated Press's heavy-handed attempt to bully bloggers is schadenfreude-licious . Now it's time to turn the tables," Mrs. Malkin said. "If your blog or blog comments have ever been quoted by the AP, listen up. It's time to prepare a bill and demand payment."

Markos Moulitsas (DailyKos.com) called the wire service "idiots" and "boneheaded, " while Michael Arrington (TechCrunch.com) said the AP was "clearly wrong." Jeff Jarvis (Buzzmachine.com) took a more strident stance.

"Back off, AP. Because we won't," he said.

The wire service capitulated somewhat, agreeing to meet Thursday with Robert Cox, president of the MBA, to discuss the appropriate exchange of content between what ultimately amounts to millions of fiercely independent, often free-form bloggers and a 146-year-old news service with 243 news bureaus in 97 countries.

The gesture set off bloggers who recalled that the AP and MBA had a business alliance at one point, sharing "live blogged" content during I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr.'s trial for perjury last year. Connecting the proverbial dots, Mr. Arrington suggested a conspiracy was afoot and that the New York Times was the third part of an AP/MBA "love triangle" for its coverage of the situation, which defended the AP.

Associated Press had no comment on the purported relationship, or if the meeting with the MBA was productive.

"The AP continues to have a constructive exchange of views with a number of parties regarding its valued relationship with bloggers," said spokesman Paul Colford.

"A slugfest over linking rules and threats of boycotts, while colorful, isn't terribly material. The business model is undergoing a warp-speed change. These bickering parties need to realize that they are all on the same side and start figuring out how to ensure that the APs of the world are here tomorrow," said John Abell of Wired.com.

"Maybe it's the APs of the world that are being obstinate, maybe its the bloggers who don't realize the hand they are voraciously biting is feeding them. But it doesn't really matter because if the boat sinks, everybody drowns," he said.