In theory, Freedom of Speech belongs to everyone equally: a minimum wage cook at Denny’s has every bit as much right to the public mike as Rupert Murdoch. Reality, of course, tends to be something different.
You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist or an anti-globalization protester to recognize that the power of corporate money — make that the overwhelming power of corporate money — in the America of today extends to the field of news and commentary. Corporate America not only owns the major news media lock, stock and barrel — it is also feeling increasingly free to use that ownership to control what news and commentary flows to the public — even in broadcasts traveling over the public airways.
Especially when it comes to economic issues, only one viewpoint is generally heard today — the voice of the “greed is good” set. True, the rest of us have the constitutional right to scream into the wind: we just don’t get to be heard.
There has been one small sliver of good news — something that stands at least a ghost of a chance of returning a little diversity to the democratic conversation — and that, of course, is the growing political power of the Internet.
And don’t think that the media powers that be haven’t noticed.
(Guardian) AP faces copyright row with bloggers
The US news agency Associated Press has found itself at the centre of a furious debate over the fair use of material by bloggers after its lawyers issued a takedown notice to a small, independent news site that it claims had quoted too heavily from its news stories.
AP said six instances of copyright violation have taken place on Drudge Retort – a leftwing comment site set up as an alternative to the Drudge Report – including one post that pasted 18 words from a story on Hillary Clinton followed by a 32-word direct quote.
A letter from the AP intellectual property governance coordinator, Irene Keselman, to the site on June 3 said that contrary to the site’s assertion, “AP considers that the Drudge Retort users’ use of AP content does not fall within the parameters of fair use”.
Make no mistake: what AP is trying to do here is to drive a dagger into the heart of the blogosphere. If its position is upheld, quoting even a paragraph or two from an AP story will constitute a violation of copyright laws. In other words, virtually every blogger in the world will be a lawbreaker.
Up to this point, it has always been assumed that the use of brief quotations constitutes “fair use” under copyright laws. Since I don’t practice law in this field, I can’t say who’s right legally, but economically AP’s decision to push this issue makes little sense to me: I mean, blog links drive traffic to AP articles. Isn’t that a good thing?