AP proves: Lawyers are not long-term business strategists

Associated Press (AP) has send DMCA notices to The Drudge Retort for quoting too much from one if it’s articles and then linking to one of it’s paying customer’s website (more at Techdirt). This, of course, interferes with the APs business model. They think The Drudge Retort should have to pay just like other AP syndicating news organizations.

I see many parallels to the recorded music business. Some people might download music for free while others are willing to pay. Today we have the luxury of trying music before we buy it. If we download from p2p and we don’t like it, we never were a lost sale. But if you like the music enough, you want to buy special physical items (like vinyl) , go to shows, and become an evangelizing fan.

Most news organizations that are paying to syndicate AP’s content are probably advertising based. They depend on traffic for their business model. If people are willing to give traffic to the AP’s customers, the AP should be willing to ignore a “copyright violation” in order to help it’s customer reach it’s goal of receiving traffic.

There are companies who’s business strategy encourage would-be offense, such as the dreaded deep linker, or the free and open source software hacker, or the Creative Commons music sharer. But if your lawyers are not crying foul, ruining your business model for heir own short term gain, for you, you carry on as you wish. Threatening potential customers is no a sustainable business model. Laws are made by people, and the spirit of laws can be rationalized by people. The way to behave on the web (which came from the way the web was designed) existed before the arrival of traditional news organizations, and they need to play by these rules.

If the AP really want bloggers to buy a license in order to quote them, they need to do two things. First, They really need to improve their offerings, giving something more than just permission to quote them. Sites like Reddit and Digg encourage linking as part of their business plan and they give blogger tools that help them accomplish their own goals rather than fight against them (granted they are not sources, but they leverage exiting behavior). AP does not do this. Second, they need to understand the the resources to police the use of their quotes is going to cost for more than it is worth, and they are better off not doing it at all. People will link and/or take entire articles wholesale. This is not your target customer. Google will eventually figure out that a site is spam and ban it, and then the motives for scraping are gone.

If the AP wants to play with bloggers on the internet, it needs to play by the bloggers’ and Googles’ rules. We link to sources, and we quote as much as we see necessary. Where we come form, respect is earned, regardless of the interpretation of copyright law or fair use. Help us kick ass, and we’ll be your biggest fans. Figure out how to monetize that, and your golden.

Sean‘s opinion.
Profy takes AP’s side and choose to site the part of fair use that cannot interfere with “potential market value.”
Arrington says: AP is banned.

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