Monday, June 16, 2008

An Online Boycott of the Associated Press...

The clash of New Media vs. Old Media rages on.

The latest conflict occurred this past weekend when, citing copyright infringement, the Associated Press sent a letter to the Drudge Retort instructing them to remove seven items that quoted A.P. stories.

The tactic backfired, sparking a flood of comments and criticism in the blogosphere. As a result, the Associated Press has retreated from its position, admitting that it "had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was 'heavy-handed' and that the A.P. was going to rethink its policies toward bloggers."

This is an apparent victory for New Media, but what's more is that Michael Arrington, author of one of the most popular blogs in cyberspace, TechCrunch, is hopping on the bandwagon of public criticism and calling for a boycott of all Associated Press stories:

Here’s our new policy on A.P. stories: they don’t exist. We don’t see them, we don’t quote them, we don’t link to them. They’re banned until they abandon this new strategy, and I encourage others to do the same until they back down from these ridiculous attempts to stop the spread of information around the Internet.

What has really caught Arrington's ire is the A.P.'s historical pattern of bringing lawsuits against citizen journalists quoting its stories, as well as the A.P.'s new declaration that "they will issue guidelines telling bloggers what is acceptable and what isn’t, over and above what the law says is acceptable. They will 'attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.'"

Arrington is totally correct that the A.P. has no legal authority to determine what is acceptable behavior over and above the law. However, a boycott in this case would prove inherently counter-productive. The Associated Press is one of the most respected institutions of journalism on the planet, and to intentionally ignore its hundreds of daily stories would be to ignore an awful lot of issues worthy of public debate. Also, Arrington's logic seems flawed when considering that, in his attempt to protect open and free commentary, he calls for a closing off of dialogue with the organization.

Ultimately, critics of the Associated Press' policies are correct in their assertions, and their watchdog vigilance serves us all well. However, such cyberactivists ought to realize that, to protect open communication, loud public criticism serves them better than a boycott of the very information they are trying to defend.


At 6:56 PM, Blogger A Nuyorican said...

I enjoyed your post. And you're right, the "cut off your nose to spite your face" approach suggested by Arrington is not the way to go. Open dialogue is a must in this situation. Also many have been referring to using local news instead. In many cases, local news uses AP articles.

AP's apparent use of it's "mighty" muscle backfired in the worst way. AP must adjust to the fact that bloggers are here to stay. Recanting and using a counter approach just caused more ire with bloggers. Who are they dedicate to bloggers who are not breaking the law?

Wondering if this will become the pivotal event that will change blogosphere and AP forever?

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Robert J. Domanski said...

Thanks for the comment "a nuyorican". Something else to keep mind is that when bloggers link to A.P. stories, it actually boosts the A.P.'s ranking in search engines, thereby helping them drive traffic to their site and increasing their advertising revenues.

Bloggers, even when being critical, are helping the A.P. by linking to their stories. That's why it makes no sense on their part to prohibit bloggers from doing so.

But constructive dialogue should never be boycotted, especially in a forum that's supposed to embody the ideals of free speech and open communication.


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