Thursday, October 02, 2008

AP, IP and baffling business decisions

Okay, I'm kind of cheating here. I originally wrote this for my internal blog at Best Buy, but I really like it, so I'm reposting it out here in the wild.

Original date: 6/20/2008

I've read a number of blog posts recently about AP's decision to try to impose very strict rules on use of their content. In essence, they're claiming that quoting more than 5 words from an AP article (in a public context such as a blog) constitutes infringing use of their intellectual property and they should be paid for it.
That strikes me (and many others) as an untenable legal position -- fair use seems to me (a non-lawyer) as granting greater ability to re-use than a 5-word limit will allow. It seems to me that AP is following in the footsteps of SCO or the RIAA; unable to grow their business in the fashion they were, they're suing customers (or potential customers) to create a revenue stream or safeguard the existing one.
Whether downloading music without paying for it is legal or not (probably not), whether it hurts sales or not (also probably not, in my opinion), it's a logical and inevitable consequence of technological change. Trying to hold back the Internet by suing potential customers is not likely to succeed, and a waste of time and energy that could be put into finding ways to actually grow your business.
There's an excellent article on the AP decision over at Greg Costikyan's Play This Thing blog. He points out that AP (and Reuters) had the opportunity to own news online but have missed the boat. To illustrate the futility of their approach, he wanted to find a story to quote (more than 5 words) from, but couldn't find one:
"... I searched on "videogame," and brought up...


Not a single story.

Now, the search was constrained to the last seven days, and I suppose it's vaguely possible that AP has not run a single story in the last week that contained the word "videogame" or dealt with them in any fashion -- but I doubt that. What's more likely, I suspect, is that search is on keywords, not fulltext, and that "videogame" isn't a keyword they use."

The full post is worth reading, but does contain a couple of swear words. Fair warning. :)

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