Making news today (or this week; I think it might have happened yesterday) the Associated Press has recently instituted a Content License Agreement, which supposedly defines how much of their copyrighted work (articles and stuff) bloggers and web users can quote. The Licensing includes a fee for excerpts starting at US12.50 for 5-25 words.

They’re offering a reward for dobbing in people who aren’t sticking to the rules, and one of the terms is that articles and content cannot be used in any way that reflects poorly on Associated Press.

I don’t know all that much about copyright law. The anonymous corporate giant that is Associated Press might be well within their legal rights to try this. But Patrick at Making Light analyses the situation perfectly:

Welcome to a world in which you won’t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you’ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.

And as a society, we need to be able to criticise our press. He also makes the point that this is a private business (Associated Press), that is trying to dictate the legalities of a public issue. A private company, which obviously has a vested interest in who can and cannot circulate news information, is trying to legalise their control of the circulation of news information.

The folks at Making Light have a few more points to make, like the fact that anyone who knows anything about the media, and why it needs watchdogs, won’t sign one of these agreements. Associated Press is trying to intimidate people into paying them, signing off on their demands, and threatening them with lawsuits if they don’t like what they blog about. But if you don’t agree to their terms and conditions, you’re still entitled to fair use under actual copyright law. Not Associated Press’ copyright law, actual law.

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