by Ben Parr
We’ve known that the Associated Press has some odd policies in regards to social media and the web for a while. The AP social media policy says that employees need to control not only what they said on Facebook, but what their friends said as well. We also got wind last week of the AP’s plan to find where anyone uses AP material online in an attempt to stop what it considers unauthorized use of its content. To say it’s causing controversy would be an understatement.
Part of the AP’s plan is to charge for use of its articles if you quote 5 words or more. They signed a deal with iCopyright in April last year to accomplish this goal. iCopyright is a widget that handles not only print and email, but republishing as well. Well the widget’s starting to get some attention, if only for the jaw-dropping starting price the AP is charging for quoting its stories: $2.50 per word.
The process goes like this: you copy and paste the excerpt or article you want to reprint. Next you pick your price, ranging from $12.50 for five words to $100 for 251 words or more. Here’s the price list, if you are not an educational or non-profit organization (they get a discount):
While this isn’t particularly shocking, it’s still part of a series of disturbing statements and actions the AP has taken in terms of web content.
This plan’s going in the wrong direction.
Let’s first be fair to the AP before we heap on the criticism. They’re the source of a lot of our news and a valuable journalistic asset. They are also trying to protect their content from what they see as illegitimate copying and unfair use.
Still, the entire policy is a battle against the direction of progress, and the price point is way off. Social media helps spread information faster and to more people, which is the point of a wired service like the AP. The company’s complaint is that blogs and news aggregators (i.e. Google News) are taking its content and making all the advertising revenue. What they forget is that they provide a great deal of traffic and attention to content creators in the process.
We don’t know the answer to this conundrum. But we do know that the AP’s current plan is riddled with holes. Laws protecting fair use come into play and are essential to freedom of the press. The AP really needs to define their policy on fair use vs. reprinting. It also seems obvious that no small-scale publisher is going to pay $12.50 to quote a line from an article. when quoting and linking on the web are common practice.
What do you think? Is what the AP’s asking for fair? Or is the price absurd?