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.