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Are AP stories warrantied?

Posted by Richard on June 20, 2008

If you read any blogs at all, you've probably heard about the AP copyright kerfuffle. First, the AP went after the left-wing blog Drudge Retort for posting excerpts (33 to 79 words) from AP stories. Now, they want you to pay for permission to post excerpts, and the fee schedule starts at 5-25 words ($12.50). Apparently, the concept of fair use is utterly unknown to them.

They have a whole menu (with submenus!) of usage categories and fees. To check it out, go to this interesting story (which I don't dare tell you about because I might use the same words they do) and click Reuse Options above the headline (which I can't quote because it's more than five words). Select Post on Your Website… (that's four words; can't tell you the other two), and on the submenu, scroll down and select Excerpt for Web Use (whew, only four words in that one). Hey, they offer educational and non-profit discounts!

It must be nice being a really big-time blogger who rates media attention, because you can play turnabout. With a little effort, Michelle Malkin found two instances in the last two months when an AP story quoted something from her blog. Since their stories are published in many places, she's calculated (using their fee schedule) that they owe her and one of her commenters $132,125.

Allahpundit wondered:

What’s their game here, seriously? They’re turning themselves into laughingstocks and blogosphere pariahs while drumming up business for Reuters and AFP. If they’re trying to establish some sort of bright line beyond which excerpts can’t go without triggering infringement, then why not just lay down some reasonable-ish policy — two paragraphs maximum, say — and wait for someone to violate it, then sue to see if a court will enforce it? (Suspected answer: Because the court probably won’t and the AP knows it.) I’m mystified by their thought process.

But commenter Tantor had some really great questions about the AP policy:

If you buy words from a story by AP that turns out to be of defective quality or enemy propaganda presented as truth, what is their refund policy? Do you get your money back if the story is fake? Or maybe free words from some story in the future that is true? How long do you have to wait for a true story to appear?

What about fake photos? If AP foists some photoshopped photos from some terrorist sympathizer on you as absolutely true, do you get your money back?

I’ve got a lot of questions about this.

I believe that in many states there is an implied warranty of "fitness and merchantability" even if the seller doesn't offer an explicit warranty. I hope the people who find that they've bought "reuse" rights to one of the AP's many fake news stories will look into that.

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