12 bucks to link to an AP story?

June 18, 2008, 2:56 PM UTC

News comes that the Associated Press, in one attempt to define the nature of content in the new media, is looking to charge online writers for use of their material — as little as five words, which would cost $12.50. That would mean that the link I just provided would cost me more than it would run me for a lawyer to represent me if I were sued.

Other things that cost $12.50:

  • A cab ride from my home to my office;
  • A cup of coffee and one slice of buttered toast from Michael’s Restaurant (including tax and tip);
  • Two magazines and a newspaper at the airport;
  • 1/2 a pound of organic salmon at a store near you;
  • One color cartridge for my Epson 2400 color printer. It takes eight, by the way;
  • Three movies on my Apple TV (purchased, rental is slightly cheaper).

These are just a few examples. I think you can see that each of these things is of greater intrinsic value than five words from the Associated Press. Of course, you could argue that if they were five very good words, that might make a difference.

Following are several phrases that are five words or under that might be worth at least $12.50:

  • “We the people”
  • “Call me Ishmael”
  • “My country, ’tis of thee”
  • “The buck stops here”
  • “In God We Trust”
  • “Booyah”

I’d buy any of those for $12.50 for use in my blog. Most of the stuff you see on the Associate Press, however, doesn’t quite measure up to that standard, so in this case I’m not quite sure.

I also am somewhat unclear as to whether the AP seeks remuneration for:

  • any words at all;
  • words in consecutive order;
  • punctuation.

For instance, in the phrase, “Six people were killed in the bombing, which was carried out by an unknown militia,” is the comma a word? If so, does that explain the $.50 cent addition to the base $12 charge? And is the fee for usage of content between 5 and 25 words (the entry point) shared with the source of the report? Suppose it was the usual unnamed government official. Should he or she receive remuneration if the story goes viral? How about a named source? Worth more?

The Internet is a new playground, of course. These rules are being written as we speak. In that transition phase, I would like to make one thing clear here and now:

If you are reading this post, please feel free to link to it, quote it, massage it, spindle it and mutilate it at will. Please, if you would, make sure to tell people where you got it, of course. I don’t mind being ubiquitous, really I don’t, but giving credit where credit is due is just plain good manners, even in this undefined and predatory space.