Irrational Fear Factor

I tend to believe any attempt to control content online stands a tremendous chance of backfiring and ultimately being more trouble than it’s worth. Some content providers are getting the memo and starting to allow their work to be disseminated without restriction. But others are missing the upside of free publicity.

The NYT reports today that the AP is seriously contemplating what to do about alleged copyright infringement online. Have they taken a look around lately? Who doesn’t excerpt from or link to the AP? And I would argue that with the exception of those pseudo-bloggers who repost news in its entirety without attribution, most are doing the AP a favor. Most commentary and analysis I read online links back to the original without exception, and therefore, drives traffic and eyeballs to the AP’s work.

You know who the AP should go after? The mainstream news outlets that steal and repackage their ideas without the slightest indication that the story is unoriginal. Sometimes they attribute the AP – mainly when they want to have someone to blame in case the information’s incorrect – but more often than not, the AP’s work is the springboard for copycat reporting without attribution.

According to the NYT, the AP says it’s going to take some meetings and try to suss out a proper policy sooner rather than later:

“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.

Mr. Kennedy said the company was going to meet with representatives of the Media Bloggers Association, a trade group, and others. He said he hopes that these discussions can all occur this week so that guidelines can be released soon.

But even then, I suspect the AP’s going to be in cat-herding territory trying to keep track of who’s using what where and how.

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