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Eye On Olympia

TVW debate mirrored in Associated Press’ struggle to retain control over its content…

As I mentioned last week, TVW is trying to keep bloggers from downloading, editing and posting audio or video excerpts from the public-affairs network’s copyrighted coverage.

Washington political bloggers, most notably www.horsesass.org founder David Goldstein, are resisting, saying that under a legal doctrine called fair use, they should be allowed to use short excerpts of copyrighted work.

As it turns out, the Associated Press is engaged in a very similar tussle. The New York Times reported yesterday that the AP is trying to set standards for how much can be quoted from its stories without infringing on AP’s copyright.

Last week, according to the Times, the news cooperative

took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.

After a flurry of criticism by bloggers, the AP backed off slightly, saying it would rethink the policy. But it has also posted this page, offering bloggers 5-25 word quotes of AP stories, subject to AP’s terms of use, for $12.50 each.

Sounding a lot like TVW’s arguments, an AP spokesman told the Times:

“Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see,” he said. “It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context.”

Although the struggle to retain control of their content is similar, the motivations of TVW and the AP are different. With widespread cutting-and-pasting of parts or all of its news articles to blogs that pay nothing to AP, it’s losing potential readers — and money.

TVW, on the other hand, seems more worried about its devoutly nonpartisan, gavel-to-gavel-coverage nature being tainted by its content turning up in political attack ads. TVW’s proposed solution is a no-cost, YouTube-like embed code for bloggers to link directly to the content — on TVW’s site.

(Full disclosure: The Spokesman-Review is a member of the AP, I’m one of the bloggers who was asked to stop using TVW’s content, and I occasionally appear on TVW broadcasts.)


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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