The Associated Press, having already announced its intention to harass bloggers who publish snippets as short as 39 words from AP stories, has now published a web form through which intimidated parties can give the AP money in return for “permission” to publish as few as five words.
In this spirit, I will shortly be putting up my own Web form through which people can PayPal me money in exchange for my promise to not blow up the moon.
The New York Times, an AP member organization, refers to this as an “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt.” I suggest it’s better described as yet another attempt by a big media company to replace the established legal and social order with with a system of private law (the very definition of the word “privilege”) in which a few private organizations get to dictate to the rest of society what the rules will be. See also Virgin Media claiming the right to dictate to private citizens in Britain how they’re allowed to configure their home routers, or the new copyright bill being introduced in Canada, under which the international entertainment industry, rather than democratically-accountable representatives of the Canadian people, will get to define what does and doesn’t amount to proscribed “circumvention.” Hey, why have laws? Let’s just ask established businesses what kinds of behaviors they find inconvenient, and then send the police around to shut those behaviors down. Imagine the effort we’ll save.
Welcome to a world in which you won’t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you’ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.
Welcome to a world in which you won’t own any of your technology or your music or your books, because ensuring that someone makes their profit margins will justify depriving you of the even the most basic, commonsensical rights in your personal, hand-level household goods.
The people pushing for this stuff are not well-meaning, and they are not interested in making life better for artists, writers, or any other kind of individual creators. They are would-be aristocrats who fully intend to return us to a society of orders and classes, and they’re using so-called “intellectual property” law as a tool with which to do it. Whether or not you have ever personally taped a TV show or written a blog post, if you think you’re going to wind up on top in the sort of world these people are working to build, you are out of your mind.
[UPDATES: Commenters Greg Andrews and Irai correctly point out that the AP’s bizarre price list predates their recent round of threats against bloggers. Meanwhile, more on the AP and their Terms-of-Use chicanery here.]