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Fair Use is only for the unrighteous

I love this. And by “I love this” I mean “oh good grief I’d cry if I weren’t laughing about this.”

So, the Associated Press reported on Amazon’s acquisition of Woot.com. Looks like pretty standard reporting to me. A couple quotes here and there to give some substance — normal stuff.

How much do I owe you?

Woot noticed the article and realized that those quotes came from Woot’s blog. Woot remembered when the AP had cracked down on bloggers quoting AP material and created a handy web form for easy calculation and payment based on the number of words bloggers wanted to use when quoting the AP. And so, Woot decided that it was only fair to charge the AP for the quoted material. Here’s what Woot said (quoted for the purpose of comment and criticism, as allowed under section 107 of Title 17):

… 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….

If you read the whole post, you’ll find that Woot proposes a compromise. I won’t spoil it for you.

So, since I quoted for the purposes of comment and criticism, here’s my comment followed shortly by my criticism.

Comment: I love Woot’s response because THIS IS SO DUMB! Oh, wait, that might have been my criticism. I guess I find it both hard to believe and stunningly easy to believe that the AP would have a web form that does everything it can to make you believe you have to pay $17.50 for up to 50 words of quotation. (It does mention Fair Use, in the little pop-up you can open if you want to know more about this license, but it makes Fair Use seem like a pretty rare thing, and a risky thing for both you and your employer.)

Criticism: This post is pretty much all criticism, I suppose, but I’m particularly critical of the “It’s only Fair Use if we quote you, not the other way around” and the “my lawyer is bigger than your lawyer” approachs to copyright. And then there’s the AP’s list of copyright dos and don’ts where all the dos are “do know about the risks of copyright infringement to you and your employer” and all the don’ts are “so don’t infringe our copyright.”

This isn’t copyright — this is playground bullying. If you take my milk, that’s stealing. If I take your milk, that’s my right.