Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To blog, or not to blog

A few months ago, a newspaper reporter interviewed me for a story about craft beer.

After we were finished, I offered to buy the reporter a beer. He thanked me but politely refused. I work for the Clipper City Brewing Company and, in that capacity, I was to be quoted in the piece. So, my gesture —a $5 pint— could have been perceived as a conflict of interest.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press (AP) delivered several cease-and-desist orders to a blog site at which bloggers had quoted AP stories.

The Associated Press, following criticism from bloggers over an AP assertion of copyright, plans to meet this week with a bloggers' group to help form guidelines under which AP news stories could be quoted online.

Jim Kennedy, the AP's director of strategic planning, said Monday that he planned to meet Thursday with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, as part of an effort to create standards for online use of AP stories by bloggers that would protect AP content without discouraging bloggers from legitimately quoting from it.

The meeting comes after AP sent a legal notice last week to Rogers Cadenhead, the author of a blog called the Drudge Retort, a news community site whose name is a parody of the prominent blog the Drudge Report. <...>

Short quotations of copyrighted material are allowed under the "fair use" provision of copyright law, but the law can be murky, Cadenhead said.

AP to meet with blogging group to form guidelines
Monday June 16,
By Seth Sutel, AP Business Writer

Without the AP —and other news organizations— much of the original reporting to which we bloggers react and reference would not be available. But the issues of copyright, blogging, freedom of speech, ethics, and the Digital Millennium Act all seem to intersect in the AP's legal action.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation lists the four things at which courts look to determine fair use:
  • Purpose and character of the use.
  • Nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used.
  • Market harm (As the EFF points out, linking to the original story seems to negate most 'harm".)
Above, I've quoted approximately 150 words from the Associated Press story. I think those four paragraphs were essential to relating the 'gist' of the piece. And I've linked them back to the original article. Is that fair use?

To understand these and other matters of blogging, I'll be attending my first DC-area Washington Blogger Meetup later this evening. And here's an earlier post about another area of ethics in beer journalism.

The reporter and I?

We enjoyed a pint of saison apiece. And each paid for his own.

[UPDATE 2008.06.21: Resolution?]


  1. We Canadians have a delightful clause in our Copyright Act at s. 29.1 which allows for "review". As I usually make comment about the quoted passage I assume this is protected.

  2. Tom, it seems pretty obvious that if you put quotation marks around quotations, cite your source and, in addition, provide a link, that no one is being harmed or deprived of authority. I've been reviewing books since 1985; no one minds if small portions of books are quoted for purposes of illustration. I think the same principles of "fair use" apply in every instance. When I take an image (not just a wine label) from the Internet and use it on my blog, I always give the source and provide a link. What could be simpler.


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