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AP's Fair Use Challenge

June 17, 2008

David Ardia of the Citizen Media Law Project hits all the points in his blogpost, "Associated Press Sends DMCA Takedown to Drudge Retort, Backpedals, and Now Seeks to Define Fair Use for Bloggers."

From the Citizen Media Law Project blog...

Last week, the Associated Press ("AP") sent a takedown request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to Rogers Cadenhead, the founder of Drudge Retort, a liberal alternative to (and parody of) the well-known Drudge Report, demanding that he remove six user-submitted blog entries and one user comment on the site that contained quotations from AP articles. Today, the New York Times reported that AP was reconsidering its request while it creates a set of guidelines for bloggers and websites that excerpt AP material.

The Drudge Retort is a community site similar to Digg and Reddit, allowing its users to contribute blog entries, comments, and links to interesting news articles. According to Cadenhead, none of the six posts republished the full text of an AP story; instead, each contained quotes ranging in length from 33 to 79 words (although the posts have been removed, Cadenhead has provided a summary of them here).

Of course, you might be skeptical whether such minimal -- and no doubt widespread -- quoting of AP content is actually copyright infringement, and you'd be right. Indeed, a number of prominent bloggers took AP to task (see here and here) for sending the takedown notice and ignoring what has become the general practice in the blogging community of using headlines and excerpted quotes from MSM sources. As Jeff Jarvis notes, the AP "is ignoring the essential structure of the link architecture of the web. It is declaring war on blogs and commenters."

In fact, it is very likely that the posts AP is complaining about on Drudge Retort are permissible fair uses under the Copyright Act. First, several posts appear to be offering commentary on recent news items. The use of another's copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism, news reporting, or commentary, will generally weigh in favor of fair use.

Second, all of the posts use fewer than 80 words from the original AP articles. While there is no bright line that defines how much of a copyrighted work can be copied and still be considered fair use, courts will consider the amount and importance of the material copied in assessing what is permissible. I can't tell how long the original AP articles were, but it's likely that all of the articles were substantially longer than 80 words.

Third, it is hard to see how the posting of AP headlines and 80 word snippets could possibly impair the market for the original AP articles (when evaluating fair use claims, courts are most concerned with whether the copying will undercut the market for the original work). Instead, the posts AP is complaining about would seem to be doing just the opposite. Users of Drudge Retort, and sites like it, post these headlines and snippets for the very purpose of alerting others that some interesting piece of news exists. These snippets invariably include links to the original articles and serve to drive traffic to the site hosting the original AP story...

CONTINUED...

Last updated June 17, 2008

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