A couple of years back, we reported on a controversy over the Associated Press demanding that the Drudge Retort blog take down some excerpts it had quoted from AP stories. It turned out that, in a blatant defiance of the principles of fair use, the AP actually wanted to impose a fee structure on the right to quote passages from its stories ($12.50 for 5-25 words, $17.50 for 26-50, and so on), though it later backed down.
More recently, as I mentioned a few days ago, Woot was bought by Amazon. And as it is Woot’s habit to come up with humorous blog posts for its sales that are often only vaguely related to the product in question, in its post about today’s sale Woot called out the AP for quoting from its purchase announcement in an AP story.
So, The AP, here we are. Just to be fair about this, we’ve used your very own pricing scheme to calculate how much you owe us. By looking through the link above, and comparing your post with our original letter, we’ve figured you owe us roughly $17.50 for the content you borrowed from our blog post, which, by the way, we worked very very hard to create. But, hey. We’re all friends here. And invoicing is such a hassle in today’s paperless society, are we right? How about this: instead of cutting us a check for the web content you liberated from our site, all you’ll need to do is show us your email receipt from today’s two pack of Sennheiser MX400 In-Ear Headphones, and we’ll call it even.
That, by itself, is funny enough that when I first saw the story I was originally considering covering it and ending it there. But since then, MG Siegler at TechCrunch has received the AP’s response, and it is even funnier. Paul Colford, AP’s Director of Media Relations, explained that the AP interviewed Woot CEO Matt Rutledge, in addition to quoting from Woot’s post. And, meanwhile, the AP was “[continuing] to provide comprehensive coverage of the oil spill.” (What?)
Of course, the AP only used three words from the interview, and 24 from Woot’s post (which, Siegler points out, the AP didn’t even courtesy link). And the AP’s guidelines didn’t say anything about it being all right to quote from a story when you interview its writer as well.
When Siegler pointed this out, Colford replied that the “non-‘story’” was two years old, with a link to an AP press release that noted the fee structure wasn’t meant to apply to bloggers—but not addressing the fact that the controversy was kicked off by the AP originally trying to pressure a blogger into taking down excerpted material.
The whole thing is funny enough to me that it was entirely worth the two year wait.