Woot turns table on AP & sends a bill for quotes
The now very wealthy owners of Woot thought they would take on the AP and its doomed attempt to get paid for the content it has created.
The owners of Woot are now $110 million the richer following the site’s purchase by Amazon. As you no doubt noted, this story received a fair bit of press. No surprise that one of the organizations covering the story was the Associated Press (are they still called that?). In its story the AP used several quotes from the blog of Woot CEO Matt Rutledge
– WAIT! Before you hit the snooze button, here’s the punchline: In doing this the AP violated its own rules about other people’s use of AP material*.
“The AP, we can’t thank you enough for looking our way. You see, when we showed off our good news on Wednesday afternoon, we expected we’d get a little bit of attention. But when we found your little newsy thing you do, we couldn’t help but notice something important. And that something is this: you printed our web content in your article! The web content that came from our blog! Why, isn’t that the very thing you’ve previously told nu-media bloggers they’re not supposed to do?
"So, The AP, here we are. Just to be fair about this, we’ve used your very own pricing scheme to calculate how much you owe us. By looking through the link above, and comparing your post with our original letter, we’ve figured you owe us roughly $17.50 for the content you borrowed from our blog post, which, by the way, we worked very very hard to create.”
*UPDATE: My old friend Drew Miga, who works for the AP in DC, pointed out my mistake in asserting that AP violated its own terms. As the AP itself said last August: “The iCopyright form that enables users to license AP content online is drawing new attention this week. It is an automated form, thus explaining how one blogger got it to charge him for the words of a former president. As the AP stated more than a year ago, the form is not aimed at bloggers. It is intended to make it easy for people who want to license AP content to do so.”
While the AP’s actions here bring new meaning to the phrases “trying to nail Jello® to a wall” and “shooting yourself in the foot and then reloading,” I do have a lot of sympathy for the organization. It’s in a situation where pretty much everyone doesn’t hesitate to use its material and no one pays for it.
Most blogs exist only to comment on other people’s work. The popular belief is that bloggers “pay” via links which drive traffic and therefore do some good for the content creator. Even if that is true and there is some way in which this generates actual revenue for the creator, it still doesn’t do an organization like the AP much good.
I suspect most bloggers link to the sites that have paid to re-use the AP content, so the traffic goes to a secondary source. While you could argue that this proves to the people who pay for the content that it is worth while, at some point those people have to wonder why they are paying for the content everyone else is using for free.
The AP is a great organization. They do essential work and cover stories that wouldn’t get covered without them. I hope for all of our sakes they can figure out a way to get paid for their content. They deserve it.
Woot was right to call AP to task for violating its own use rules. But* the AP is right for feeling like there are a lot of parasites (this author included) who are feeding off of its work.
*And I was wrong to take Woot’s word on any of this. Reporting isn’t their business, it’s mine.