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Woot! Takes On The AP Under Its Own Rules

by Sean P. Aune | July 7, 2010July 7, 2010 8:00 am PDT

You know, there may be nothing worse in the world than being a hypocrite, but apparently when you’re an internationally recognized news agency not only is it ok, but you can try to make everyone else look like the idiots.  Cue Pee Wee Herman saying, “I know you are, but what am I?”

When covering the story of Amazon purchasing Woot, the Associated Press (better known as AP) spoke with Woot CEO Matt Rutledge.  They quoted Mr. Rutledge in the article, and here it is in its entirety:

“I’m really excited,” he said.

Then the AP went on to use a 24 word section of Woot’s original blog post on the acquisition to fill out the article.

ap_logoNormally this isn’t a problem in the blogosphere so long as a link is provided to the original post it came from, but AP did not do so.  There is also the pesky problem that a few years ago the AP announced that bloggers must pay them a license fee for quoting from one of its stories; the news agency even went so far as to set up a payment page to ease payments to them for using its text.  This has led many blogs to ban all use and reference of AP stories for the past two years because we simply never wanted to go through the hassle of arguing with them over “fair use”.

Woot decided to make a blog post about how the AP had used so much of its text, and they asked for a payment of $17.50 for the text, or the option of the company buying its deal of the day.  TechCrunch picked up the story as it had had a similar argument with AP a few years ago, and everyone thought it would be a good giggle.

However, the AP was not amused and TechCrunch got the following e-mail today about it:

Surely you’ll also want your readers to know that The Associated Press INTERVIEWED Mr. Rutledge, as this version of the “newsy little thing” you cite makes clear: http://bit.ly/cl8JlX

Meanwhile, AP staffers across the Gulf region and in Washington continue to provide comprehensive coverage of the oil spill.

You’ll find highlights of that coverage here: http://www.ap.org/oil_spill/

Cheers,
Paul Colford

Apparently the AP feels getting a three word quote from Mr. Rutledge means that its own rules no longer apply.  They also asked Ms. Masnick of TechDirt, who received a similar letter, if it was a slow news day.  As for the jab at the oil spill coverage, while most people are scratching their heads over the seeming non-sequitur section of the letter, my feeling is it was a jab to say that there are more important things going on in the world.

Well, yes, there certainly are more important things going on in the world, but when you decide to run a story on something that falls distinctly inside of the purview of tech blogs, these are the doors you open.  Especially when you are so hypocritical to break rules that you just arbitrarily forced upon us.  The AP has tried to say it isn’t directed at bloggers, but it’s also never been made clear that it really isn’t.  It just says if you want to use their words, you owe them money.  Period.  But the problem is, the AP isn’t a blog, it’s a worldwide news agency, so even if its rules don’t apply to bloggers, shouldn’t it apply to an organization with that kind of reach?

The whole thing is quite silly, and its obvious that the Associated Press has no concept of how to deal with the blogosphere.  If it had chosen to not reply to any of the blogs that wrote about it, this would have all gone under the carpet without anyone ever mentioning it again.  Instead they made it worse.

What say you?  Is the AP in the wrong here?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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