Monday, June 16, 2008

Small Stuff

So… the rounds have been made and I was gonna put up one of those typical “I got nuthin’” posts today (coz I really didn’t have anything…), but decided to give memeorandum a glance to see if there was any blog fodder lurking therein. And yeah… there is. Something that’s near and dear to my heart, as it were:

The Associated Press, one of the nation’s largest news organizations, said that it will, for the first time, attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.

The A.P.’s effort to impose some guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use,” which holds that copyright owners cannot ban others from using small bits of their works under some circumstances. For example, a book reviewer is allowed to quote passages from the work without permission from the publisher.

Fair use has become an essential concept to many bloggers, who often quote portions of articles before discussing them. The A.P., a cooperative owned by 1,500 daily newspapers, including The New York Times, provides written articles and broadcast material to thousands of news organizations and Web sites that pay to use them.

Last week, The A.P. 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.

On Saturday, The A.P. retreated. Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., said in an interview that the news organization had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed” and that The A.P. was going to rethink its policies toward bloggers.

The quick about-face came, he said, because a number of well-known bloggers started criticizing its policy, claiming it would undercut the active discussion of the news that rages on sites, big and small, across the Internet.


On Friday, The A.P. issued a statement defending its action, saying it was going to challenge blog postings containing excerpts of A.P. articles “when we feel the use is more reproduction than reference, or when others are encouraged to cut and paste.” An A.P. spokesman declined Friday to further explain the association’s position.

After that, however, the news association convened a meeting of its executives at which it decided to suspend its efforts to challenge blogs until it creates a more thoughtful standard.

“We don’t want to cast a pall over the blogosphere by being heavy-handed, so we have to figure out a better and more positive way to do this,” Mr. Kennedy said.

OK. I’m the smallest of small fry in the blogosphere, yet still… it is to worry, no? Not yet, perhaps, but one wonders just what sort of guidelines the AP will come up with. I consider EIP to be under a pall, for all that.

I’ve always tried to stay within the bounds of “Fair Use” (ill-defined as it may be) and rarely, if ever, post anything in its entirety when just a snippet will do. And I always link. The one area where I might be vulnerable is in the use of photographs. But if the AP, or any of its members, wanna come after me for my postings, well then…come on down. Coz there’s always Reuters, AFP, Auntie, and the NYT, of course. The AP ain’t the be-all and end-all in the news biz. Big, yes. But there are alternatives.

Much, much more on memeorandum… and 99.2% of it reads like “Go jump in the lake, AP.” That’s being quite kind as far as characterizations go, Gentle Reader. And some of the best is here… including this: “One last bit of advice for the AP before I get on my plane: Back off.”

What he said.


And then there’s this… in the “Suspicions Confirmed” Dept:

Three horrors await Americans who get behind the wheel of a car for a family road trip this summer: the spiraling price of gas, the usual choruses of "are-we-there-yet?" -- and the road rage of fellow drivers.

Divine intervention might be needed for the first two problems, but science has discovered a solution for the third.

Watch out for cars with bumper stickers.

That's the surprising conclusion of a recent study by Colorado State University social psychologist William Szlemko. Drivers of cars with bumper stickers, window decals, personalized license plates and other "territorial markers" not only get mad when someone cuts in their lane or is slow to respond to a changed traffic light, but they are far more likely than those who do not personalize their cars to use their vehicles to express rage -- by honking, tailgating and other aggressive behavior.

It does not seem to matter whether the messages on the stickers are about peace and love -- "Visualize World Peace," "My Kid Is an Honor Student" -- or angry and in your face -- "Don't Mess With Texas," "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student."

Dunno if I agree with that last paragraph. I give a clear berth to vehicles with bumper stickers which clearly illustrate someone of the moonbat persuasion is driving said vehicle. Simply because it’s my experience that moonbats seem to exhibit a LOT more passive-aggressive behavior than your average bear. One good thing, though: Chances are they’re not armed. And that’s a Great Good Thing.

Along these same lines…and those lines would be road safety… Fire Fox has a good post up today about watching out for bikers while you’re off on your Great American Vacation this year, or even if you’re just driving around town. Good stuff it is, and…speaking as a biker who was victimized by a clue-free 17-year old in the waaay-back… I hope you go give it a read. Someone’s life might be saved for it…and that life just might be mine.


  1. It does seem like bloggers and the AP need to have some manners or maybe some etti-quit. Always giving your source, only using snippets instead of copying whole articles, etc would be nice. Most of us do those things, but I can see how some people might abuse the situation. But counting lines or words seems a bit selfish and silly.

    Are we talking about lots of bumper stickers or just one? I've seen some vehicles that look like they are being held together with bumper stickers - it would be wise to avoid such drivers. I have seen some other vehicles that their bumper stickers border on obscene - I avoid these drivers too. I can see how road rage and bumper stickers can go hand in hand. Obviously these people feel the need to voice their opinion or brag about their children. Does a yellow ribbon count?

    Fire Fox is worth the read with some good advice on motorcycle safety.

  2. I guess some bloggers go about the business of blogging for profit, and if that's their reason for blogging then I would agree that they really should use their own material.

    However, most of the blogs I read are about the business of friendly debate. In these cases, what would be the AP's damage? I guess it could still be construed as copyright infringement, but you didn't profit from it, and isn't that what copyright infringement cases are usually about? Aren't copyrights for the purpose of keeping someone from stealing my idea and therefore stealing the benefits that I would have received?

    In the case of blogs that are only for the purpose of friendly discussion, I would argue that it's no different than quoting the AP around the office watercooler. Can they, or do they really even want to stop that?

  3. Oh, and regarding the road rage, my Driver's Ed teacher told us to always avoid any car being driven by anyone wearing a hat of any kind. I've remembered that rule all these (ahemcough) years and it hasn't failed me yet.

  4. Ah, copyright guidelines....a subject also dear to my heart, Buck. This is probably only of interest to me and no-one else ... BUT ...

    I have been administrating political discussion boards for the past ten years now ... starting back in the days when The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times sued Free Republic for copyright infringement .... and won.

    Back then, and even now, there was not a lot of definition for "fair use" and so we had to try and define it ourselves. What we came up with on several different boards ... and which will still use today on the board where I am admin:

    1. Respect the copyright of an article. The place where the article was written and posted ... that source OWNS those words. Using them is not free to everyone.

    2. Always post a snippet of the article, not the entire article. The number of words we use on my site is 150 more. It is an arbitrary number which allows for several paragraphs to get the sense of the article. It works well for us.

    3. Always include the name of the source, the date the article was posted, the exact title of the piece, the name of the author and a link back to the source.

    4. These posting guidelines are strictly enforced on my site.

    I would think these "rules" would apply to bloggers as well as websites...actually wherever anyone is posting copyrighted information.

    Just my two cents.

  5. In 2008, left-wing political expression is a clear sign of anger. That isn't a Republican talking point it's simple common sense.

    Bumper stickers that say things like "God bless President Bush and our brave troops" -- by themselves -- are not harbingers of dangerous temperament or conduct, of any kind. That, too, is simple common sense.

    Agree with Knit about the hats. My personal beef is a head that sits n-o-t very far above the steering wheel...for whatever reason. It could mean a twelve-year-old stole his grandmother's car. It could mean someone with failing eyesight leaning way forward. It could mean the driver is slouched because he doesn't take his responsibilities as Captain of the vessel very seriously. One way or another -- you give them a wide berth.

    Thing I Know #84. There are perhaps a dozen different reasons why a fellow motorist’s head doesn’t rise far above his steering wheel, and almost every one of them compels the prudent driver to stay away.

    We're watching "two and a half men" and the boy just informed his dad that his seventeen-year-old friend was an excellent driver, because "he's never been in an accident that was his fault." Great line. Lot of realism in that.

  6. Lou: It's semi-amazing (to me, anyway) the number of blogs I've stumbled on that apparently have never heard of "Fair Use." I've seen many, many articles quoted in their entirety, with minimal attribution. Some people just don't get it.

    I can handle one bumper sticker, unless it's on a certain class of car. (Classic example: one NEVER puts a bumper sticker on a Vette.) Ya really gotta wonder about those cars (Subarus!) that are just plastered with 'em, though. You're right: avoid at all costs.

    Amy: I agree with your point about financial damage when it comes to us small fry, and that's 90% of the blogging community. But, that said: the law is the law... or... see Sharon's (aka Towanda) comment about Free Republic getting sued.

    I'd say the possibility of the AP raining on your or my parade is probably infinitesimal. It would be VERY bad press (and bad form) if the Big Bad AP came after us. And I'd use the arguments you've made in my defense.

    Interesting about the hat! I always have a ball cap of some sort on my head. Even as I type... it's an "Air Force; al Dhafra, UAE" cap SN1 brought me back from the Sandbox four years or so ago. It's seen better days, but I love it.

    Sharon: I like your two cents. I'm not religious about following your rules, e.g., I sometimes don't include the full title or author of pieces I link, but I certainly try. Your rules are good rules.

    Morgan: You're oh-so-right about lil gray heads at steering wheel level. They scare the Hell out of me anytime (the Miata is VERY small compared to your garden-variety Buick, even today), but most ESPECIALLY when I'm on the moto.

    That's a great line from your boy!

  7. I think you should add to the "gray heads at the steering wheel" with "and driving a huge Lincoln or Cadillac."

    What is wrong with wearing a hat while driving? I thought everyone wore a hat while driving.

  8. I'm with Lou. Everyone around here--at least most of the man--wears a hat nearly all the time. To avoid them while driving means to stay off the road.

    Moonbat bumper stickers--they're just a big target.


Just be polite... that's all I ask.