03 July 2008

Associated Press Licensing Policies

The Associated Press Licensing Policies (and their dubious legal basis) deserve the examination they get at this post. Particularly notable is that people who license an AP news story (or part of it, they are priced by the word), contractually waive their right to criticize the AP or the author.

The trouble is that it isn't at all clear that they have any legal right to protect what they are licensing, and their legal rights are even more attenuated when the quotation of their stories is critical of the AP or its authors.

Some countries, Poland, for example, expressly prohibit copyright protections for news at all. Intellectual property scholars have noted that there are serious questions about the extent to which the factual core of a news report and its intimately intertwined with the facts headlines are protected by copyright even under U.S. law.

If the Associated Press is going to insist on non-content neutral licensing practices that go against the values necessary to its own existence, and attempt to impose a tax on sharing factual information about what is going on in the world for legitimate discussion purposes, perhaps Congress needs to intervene, abrogating any treaties that interfere if necessary, to expressly strip factual news reporting and minimal incidents to it of intellectual property protection entirely.

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