- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 21, 2008

The two sides in the Associated Press-blogosphere spat are talking now, but a war may loom anyway.

America’s biggest wire service wanted bloggers to pay for its content, as news organizations do, and threatened a lawsuit against Rogers Cadenhead, a Florida-based journalist who oversees the online Drudge Retort, a liberal answer to the much-viewed Drudge Report.

After a meeting Thursday night, the lawyers in the weeklong dispute hammered out some guidelines for content use, adding a productive dimension to a rift thus far accompanied by a lot of noise and plenty of publicity.

But Mr. Cadenhead said a major fight, similar to the late-1990s disputes between record labels and online music-sharing services, could be in the offing.

“I spent around two hours yesterday talking to AP attorneys about their specific objections to the user blog entries in dispute, going line by line through the text to pinpoint exactly where they have intellectual property concerns in the short excerpts that were posted. I won’t reveal the details of this discussion until AP releases the guidelines for bloggers that it promised on Monday.

“If AP’s guidelines end up like the ones they shared with me, we’re headed for a Napster-style battle on the issue of fair use,” said Mr. Cadenhead, who put headlines and snippets of AP stories on the Web site - a common practice among thousands of bloggers who routinely provide their readers with stories, citations and reference links.

Napster rerun or not, there already has been much melodrama. The AP announced earlier this week it wanted Mr. Cadenhead and other bloggers to pay $2.50 per word.

The online caterwaul was almost instantaneous. Hundreds of bloggers quickly responded by hurling insults, threatening a boycott of the AP and suggesting that bloggers charge the wire service for their own work. Mr. Cadenhead enlisted the help of the Media Bloggers Association, an industry group, and the dispute was splashed across the pages of the New York Times, Newsweek and other mainstream news outlets.

A calm has descended after days of potshots and posturing.

“In response to questions about the use of Associated Press content on the Drudge Retort Web site, the AP was able to provide additional information to the operator of the site, Rogers Cadenhead,” said AP spokesman Paul Colford on Friday.

“That information was aimed at enabling Mr. Cadenhead to bring the contributed content on his site into conformance with the policy he earlier set for his contributors. Both parties consider the matter closed,” he said.

“In addition, the AP has had a constructive exchange of views this week with a number of interested parties in the blogging community about the relationship between news providers and bloggers and that dialogue will continue. The resolution of this matter illustrates that the interests of bloggers can be served while still respecting the intellectual property rights of news providers,” Mr. Colford said.

Mr. Cadenhead is not so sure, however.

“I’m glad that my personal legal dispute with the AP is resolved, thanks to the help of the Media Bloggers Association but it does nothing to resolve the larger conflict between how AP interprets fair use and how thousands of people are sharing news on the Web,” he said Friday.

“I think AP and other media organizations should focus on how to encourage bloggers to link their stories in the manner they like, rather than hoping their lawyers can rebottle the genie of social news,” he said. “I don’t think the news service will be able to concede any ground to the blogosphere. AP sells headline and lead-only services to customers.”

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