Daily Archives: June 16, 2008

Associated Press: Unclear on the Concept of Fair Use

As Patrick Nielsen Hayden notes, the Associated Press, which ought to have some concept of “fair use,” is trying to make people pay for using quotes as short as five words long.

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Al Gore announced his endorsement of Barack Obama Monday and promised to help the Democrat achieve what eluded him – the presidency.

In a letter to be e-mailed to Obama supporters, the former vice president and Nobel Prize winner wrote, “From now through Election Day, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected president of the United States.”

What part of “fair use,” I wonder, does the Associated Press not understand? The answer, I’m sure, is that they understand it just fine, and are aware that it’s not likely that any court in the land would agree with a quote as short as five words constitutes an abuse of fair use.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Dozens of gay couples planned to rush down to their county clerk’s office Monday evening to be among the very first to say “I do” under the historic court ruling making California the second state to allow same-sex marriages.

The May 15 decision by the California Supreme Court was set to take effect at 5 p.m. While Mondays are not exactly a big day for weddings, at least five county clerks around the state agreed to extend their hours to issue marriage licenses, and many gay couples planned to get married on the spot.

Now, I can see the issue if people are posting entire AP articles on their sites without compensation. But generally speaking, most people will quote a paragraph or two, and then link back to the original article so people can see the whole article — and incidentally, drive traffic to AP member sites, who are generally hungry for visitors, because that’s how they justify their ad sales.

OAKVILLE, Iowa (AP) — The floodwaters that deluged much of Iowa have done more than knock out drinking water and destroy homes. They have also spread a noxious brew of sewage, farm chemicals and fuel that could sicken anyone who wades in.

On Monday, Bob Lanz used a 22-foot aluminum flatboat to navigate through downtown Oakville, where water reeked of pig feces and diesel fuel.

“You can hardly stand it,” Lanz said as he surveyed what remained of his family’s hog farm. “It’s strong.”

My own personal fair use compass says to me that I should quote no more than three paragraphs out of an entire news story, and to of course, link back to the originating source. Anyone who visits this site over any period time also knows that I’m pretty good at trimming back comments in which a commenter has quoted too much of an article, or song lyrics, or whatever. Because I’m pretty strongly of the belief that fair use shouldn’t be abused, and that educating people on what is fair use is a good way to keep it strong and useful in our society.

BAGHDAD (AP) — Signs are emerging that Iraq has reached a turning point. Violence is down, armed extremists are in disarray, government confidence is rising and sectarian communities are gearing up for a battle at the polls rather than slaughter in the streets.

Those positive signs are attracting little attention in the United States, where the war-weary public is focused on the American presidential contest and skeptical of talk of success after so many years of unfounded optimism by the war’s supporters.

I’m pretty comfortable with my own standard of what constitutes fair use, but if the Associated Press wants to argue with me about it, well, I suppose now they have a reason to come after me about it. I’ll be interested in seeing if they do. As an aside, I think it would be smart for AP to offer a blogger subscription account, in which bloggers are allowed to use full articles and photos in exchange for a reasonable monthly fee — reasonable for an individual to pay, mind you. That would probably solve a lot of problems right there. But that’s neither here nor there as concerns fair use.

German Dreams

The cover for the German version of The Android’s Dream, which comes out in January 2009:

Like the other German covers to my books, I’m not entirely sure what the spaceship pictured has to do with anything in the book, but since the books are selling well (the German version of The Last Colony just came out and is in the Top Ten of the Amazon.de SF list) I have to conclude Heyne knows what they’re doing and am content to let them do their thing. And they just made an offer on Zoe’s Tale, which I’ve told my agent to accept, so you readers in Germany will have another book to look forward to as well (in, I would suspect, the summer of ’09). Danke, for reading them.

Showing Ignorance Can Be Bipartisan

Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee member Fred Hobbs, commenting on why superdelegate Lincoln Davis has not endorsed the party’s presidential nominee, worries Obama might have terrorist connections:

“I don’t exactly approve of a lot of the things he stands for and I’m not sure we know enough about him,” Hobbs said when asked why he thought Davis wasn’t endorsing Obama. “He’s got some bad connections, and he may be terrorist connected for all I can tell. It sounds kind of like he may be.”

This got a response from Lincoln Davis’ people:

“No one in their right mind, including me, believes Senator Obama has ties to terrorism. It is truly ridiculous for anyone to try to make hay out of these comments.”

And from the Tennessee Democratic Party:

“Mr. Hobbs is obviously misinformed, and his statement highlights the perpetual efforts of the Republican Party, especially here in Tennessee, to turn internet smears and highly offensive gossip into their party’s message against Senator Barack Obama as we head into the General Election.”

I expect ol’ Fred Hobbs is going to have a “Come to Jesus” moment regarding Obama right quick.

That said, and perhaps to the surprise of many who enjoyed me make sport of Fox News recently, I don’t think this can all be laid at the feet of the GOP, unless one really wants to entertain the notion that Republican operatives have somehow penetrated the very core of the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee. Perhaps they snuck through Mr. Hobbs’ window while he slept and whispered subliminal GOP talking points into his slumbering ear. Hey, it worked on Joe Lieberman.

But I think the simpler explanation is that Mr. Hobbs said something stupid of his own accord in the vicinity of a reporter, and thus hoisted himself via his own proverbial petard. And it is something for the Democrats to worry about. They’ve got a lot to deal with right in their own backyard, it seems, even before they have to contend with the GOP, or Fox News.

B&W in PDF

You’ll recall, no doubt, that last week’s “Big Idea” piece was by Lewis Shiner, discussing his latest novel, Black & White. For those of you who thought to yourself “hmmm, looks interesting, I should check that out,” there’s good news: Shiner has put up a pdf version of the novel for your perusal. Check it out and enjoy.

And if you do enjoy, remember that one excellent way to show your appreciation is to then buy a physical copy. Because I’m sure Lewis Shiner likes to eat.

A Note About Whatever

This is a small thing, but worth noting: I occasionally see this site referred to as “whatever.com”. In fact, it’s not: I don’t own the whatever.com domain name (or any “whatever” domain name, for that matter), and the people who do own it won’t sell it to me. If you point people to whatever.com when referring to this site, they will go somewhere else. The URL for Whatever is http://whatever.scalzi.com.

I think what might be confusing people is the fact that if you type “whatever” into Google, this site pops up as the first reference; that and the fact that maybe they just assume I have the “.com” to go with “whatever.” Well, I wish I did. I should have thought about that ten years ago. Stupid lack of a time machine.

In any event: If you do link into Whatever — and thanks if you do! — please be sure to get the URL right. Thanks.