Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fighting the Institutionalization of the Blogosphere...

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article describing how bloggers were boycotting the Associated Press because of the AP's stringent claim that they consider it copyright infringement to link to their stories without permission.

Well, after experiencing a massive backlash in cyberspace, the AP has since retreated. It recently set up a meeting 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".

This might sound great except for one thing... WHO THE HECK IS THE MEDIA BLOGGERS ASSOCIATION?!

How has this organization, which virtually no one in the blogosphere has ever heard of, suddenly and miraculously come to represent all of us without our consent? It sure doesn't represent me.

According to its website, the Media Bloggers Association is "a nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting, protecting and educating its members; supporting the development of 'blogging' or 'citizen journalism' as a distinct form of media; and helping to extend the power of the press, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails, to every citizen."

Basically, once you get through the fluff, they intend to provide legal assistance to their members and to accomplish other PR-related goals like acquiring press credentials at major events. However, one rather significant flaw with these intentions is that they have stopped accepting members.

This is a case of power politics, pure and simple, and you have to give the AP credit for understanding that if you can choose your own opposition, then you frame the whole debate in your favor from the outset. The Media Bloggers Association may be a legitimate organization, but it in no way represents the millions of individual voices who were originally outraged. What the AP has done by setting up this meeting has been to attempt a formal institutionalization of what is, in reality, an extremely diverse and malleable foe.

Let's be clear - the Media Bloggers Association in no way whatsoever represents me or any other blogger out there; and it absolutely has no authority to negotiate legal arrangements that would be binding on us all. Regardless of how much the AP desperately wants to institutionalize the many disparate blogging voices, ultimately Michael Arrington of Techcrunch is still right - the AP "doesn't get to make its own rules about how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows."
  

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