The Associated Press, one of the largest news sources in the world, has decided to shoot itself in the foot and file copyright suits against bloggers who quote more than five words from any AP article without paying a licensing fee.  Newshoggers reports that users on the Drudge Retort received DMCA takedown requests for using AP article headlines and quotes.  Fortunately, after a loud protest from bloggers, the media giant issued a less harshly-worded statement in which they promised to "rethink their policies toward bloggers."  The takedowns have not been removed.

What does this mean for you?  The takedown notices only (so far) apply to items found on the Drudge Retort, which is a high-traffic website.  The logic behind them was the theft of "hot news," using the AP as a source while giving enough information about the articles to "steal" the traffic that otherwise would have gone to the Associated Press.  The average blog isn't going to generate that amount of traffic, and shouldn't be in much danger of a takedown (though it is always a risk in posting any kind of copyrighted work, attributed or not).
  Most bloggers have waved the flag of "fair use," a doctrine which, while legally murky, has tended to protect the right of people to talk about copyrighted material, such as quoting from a book or showing a clip for a movie for a review.  Online news reporting and general blogging -- the Drudge Retort works like Digg, in which users post links to interesting stories with a one to two stentence summary -- has changed the face of journalism, with copying and pasting the accepted norm and news itself considered something to pass along as quickly as gossip and cat photos.  New media means new rules, and the makers of the old rules are having a tough time of figuring out what to do next.

Rogers Cadenhead, owner of the Drudge Retort, said, "There are millions of people sharing links to news articles on blogs, message boards and sites like Digg. If The A.P. has concerns that go all the way down to one or two sentences of quoting, they need to tell people what they think is legal and where the boundaries are."  On his own website, he said, "The link-and-excerpt culture we've established in blogging is the way that millions of people find, evaluate and understand the news. Short excerpts should constitute fair use, as long as the excerpts are brief and links are provided to the complete work."

Jim Kennedy, VP of the Associated Press, said, "We don’t want to cast a pall over the blogosphere by being heavy-handed, so we have to figure out a better and more positive way to do this."  The AP is going to meet with representative of the Media Bloggers Association and try to set up proper and well-defined guidelines for what will be considered fair use and what will be shot down as theft.

(Additional Source: NY Times)