AP gets billed for use of content - and hypocrisy

Woot.com, a site being acquired by Amazon, is billing the AP for excerpting its blog post announcement by using the AP's own pricing structure.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

updated: In a brilliant move that gives the Associated Press a taste of its own medicine, Woot.com - an online bargain shopping site that made headlines with an acquisition by Amazon - has publicly billed the AP for $17.50 for excerpting its blog post last week.

Of course, Woot.com didn't just pull that dollar amount out of its hat. It used the same pricing structure that the AP uses to charge Web sites for using excerpts of its content. From the Woot post:

Hey, The Associated Press! Great to see you! And thanks so much for noticing our little blog post the other day. But, well… we wanted to talk for a second.

The AP, we can’t thank you enough for looking our way. You see, when we showed off our good news on Wednesday afternoon, we expected we’d get a little bit of attention. But when we found your little newsy thing you do, we couldn’t help but notice something important. And that something is this: you printed our web content in your article! The web content that came from our blog! Why, isn’t that the very thing you’ve previously told nu-media bloggers they’re not supposed to do?

So, The AP, here we are. Just to be fair about this, we’ve used your very own pricing scheme to calculate how much you owe us. By looking through the link above, and comparing your post with our original letter, we’ve figured you owe us roughly $17.50 for the content you borrowed from our blog post, which, by the way, we worked very very hard to create. But, hey. We’re all friends here. And invoicing is such a hassle in today’s paperless society, are we right? How about this: instead of cutting us a check for the web content you liberated from our site, all you’ll need to do is show us your email receipt from today’s two pack of Sennheiser MX400 In-Ear Headphones, and we’ll call it even.

The headphones, of course, are today's deal-of-the-day featured on Woot.com. And, Woot has given the AP until the end of day to send over an e-mailed copy of the sales invoice as proof.

Whether or not the AP will comply or Woot will hold the news agency to it, the whole thing plays out as a wonderful way of calling out the AP for its hypocrisy. For too long now, traditional news outlets - whether the AP or the New York Times - have been struggling to stay alive in a news media landscape that's largely been impacted by the Internet.

The bigger problem among mainstream media, though, has been its attempt to hang on to its old school ways of doing business. It's a new world out there and the news media is hardly the first industry to be impacted by it. Just ask the Hollywood folks in the music biz.

This is one small blip in the larger wake-up call to the AP and traditional news outlets. If you're going to set up rules for making sure no one uses your content without paying you for it, you should probably be prepared to open your checkbook if you're going to use someone else's content, too. The rules should work both ways.

Or you could be a bit more friendly and maybe start coming up with a less-rigid form of content sharing while you're also brainstorming some new business models.

updated: I heard from Paul Colford, the AP's director of media relations, who schooled me in an email on its policy around the use of its content. Apparently, this is not the first time this issue - specifically the use of an iCopyright form (pictured above) as a means of licensing AP content - has come up.

Colford sent over a link to an August 2009 statement from the AP that explains that the automated iCopyright form is not aimed at bloggers but instead is in place for people who want to republish AP content. OK, I'll give the AP that one. But there are still two things that are bugging me about this.

First, If Woot had used AP content in its blog post, would the author of the corporate blog be considered a "blogger" by the AP or would he have been on-the-hook for a few bucks? And second, is it OK for the AP to pull an excerpt from a blog and use it, when it clearly doesn't want people doing that with its content?

I'm just asking: Is there still some hypocrisy here? You tell me.

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