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AP Will Sell You a "License" To Words It Doesn't Own

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the almost-as-ironic-as-disappearing-1984 dept.

Businesses 340

James Grimmelmann performed an experiment using the AP's form to request a license to use more than four consecutive words from one of their articles. Except that he didn't paste in words from the (randomly chosen) article, but instead used 26 words written by Thomas Jefferson 196 years ago: If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea. The AP cheerfully charged him $12 to use Jefferson's 26 words. Both Boing Boing and TechDirt have picked up the story so far. Grimmelmann adds an update to his blog: the AP has rescinded his license to Jefferson's words and issued a refund for his $12. They did not exhibit the grace to admit that their software is brain-dead.

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340 comments

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coon poon tune (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934399)

Blwal!!!

Goodnight, Sweet AP. (4, Funny)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934415)

And so we see yet another terminally-ill industry smothering itself with a pillow.

Re:Goodnight, Sweet AP. (0, Flamebait)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934533)

I see nothing wrong with what AP did here. This is like complaining that Comcast will let you pay your cable bill even if you don't watch any TV. Yeah, they will. So?

Re:Goodnight, Sweet AP. (4, Insightful)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934695)

No, it's not.

It's like Comcast charging you for another provider's cable.

If you don't own something you can't license it out, pretty simple. AP's clusterfuck of a piece of software they're using to determine what's theirs and what's not is the issue here. Relying purely on software without decent beta testing (which seems to happen more often than not) is one of the most retarded things you can do as a business.

Re:Goodnight, Sweet AP. (4, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934985)

If you don't own something you can't license it out, pretty simple.

You can, however, relicense something that's in the public domain. You're not even obliged to tell them it's public domain.

parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934751)

I see nothing wrong with what AP did here. This is like complaining that Comcast will let you pay your cable bill even if you don't watch any TV. Yeah, they will. So?

Why the heck is this modded troll? 'troll' != 'i disagree with this person'.

The parent raises a valid point. If you are stupid enough to offer me money for a copy of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, Thomas Jefferson's or William Shakespeare's writings or anything else in the public domain, why shouldn't I accept your money? The AP's software may be brain dead but to say that this represents an industry "smothering itself with a pillow" rather misses the point.

I would also add that of those cheering the downfall of the AP aren't likely to be too happy with the eventual consequences. The blogosphere may do a fair job of covering Washington (although most of it so slanted to one side or another as to make Fox News look fair and balanced) but the coverage of local issues and politics is sadly lacking.

Re:parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (5, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934871)

I completely agree. If you bring your own bag of chips into a gas station mart, walk around a little, and then hand it to the cashier, they'll scan it and charge you.

I can see somebody at the AP raising an eyebrow and asking "So you want to pay us $12 to promise not to sue you for using text in the public domain? Uhhh OK we promise." It's the researcher that's baiting them and causing problems; there's no problem on their end.

Re:parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (5, Insightful)

Harlequin (11000) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934945)

I think the suggestion that it's brain-dead would work with your analogy thus. It's like going to a gas station and walking around a gas station that only sells Doritos and handing them a bag of Kettle Chips. Presumably, their system should read the bar code and tell you that they aren't sold there (how can it figure out how much to charge if they don't sell that product).

If you offer to license part of an article, you would similarly expect the AP system to at least do some sort of sanity check to see if the text you're quoting came from that article.

What if you made up a quote like "Today, Reuters announced they were declaring bankrupcy" and licensed it from the AP. Could you then attribute that quote to the AP? Do you think their system should allow that?

Re:parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (5, Insightful)

mino (180832) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935069)

Sigh, what a total non-story this is. It's an estimation tool, people. If you're dumb enough to use it in the wrong way, then... you know, hooray for you.

It's like a tool on a carpenter's website to get a fence built. Fill in what material you want, how high the fence will be, the perimeter of your block, and whether you want it finished or painted. The site gives you a quote for the fence. Then ring the carpenter, say "I've got the money now, can I pay you BEFORE you do the job?". Give the carpenter the money, and OH HA HA MR CARPENTER I SURE TRICKED YOU I JUST PAID YOU TO BUILD A FENCE FOR A PROPERTY THAT'S NOT EVEN MINE THAT IS THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR I AM SO CLEVAR.

Err.. yeah, good for you, I guess. Want a cookie?

How is this noteworthy?

Re:parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (3, Informative)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935061)

Yes, just like when the ATM hands me £20 notes instead of £10 notes, it's fair game for me to keep it.

Oh wait, it's not. The law has shown that actually, even if the company gives me the money, it's not my right to take it, if it was reasonably given by mistake.

So when it's an individual who makes the mistake, and a company takes advantage, why should that be any different? It's not appropriate to take advantage of a faulty ATM, and it shouldn't be appropriate to take advantage of a faulty input to this software.

Re:parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (2, Funny)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935171)

take advantage

Yes, taking the piles of money that people leave on my doorstep is taking advantage.

The guy is knowingly paying the AP for something free. They're not taking advantage of him. And even if someone was legitimately stupid enough to pay the AP for Thomas Jefferson's material, it's not their fault. Should I erect a fence around my doorstep so people don't leave piles of money?

Re:parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934909)

The problem with the modding is that I get too fucking many mod points. Back in the day when it was 5 mod points every week or so, I gave my mod points to the posts that I felt had the most value. Now, I get 45-60 mod points a week. I try not to abuse my mod points, but if some guy really pisses me off, I'll -1 overrate them. Let's go back to the old system, where there was less potential for abuse from people like me.

kkthxbye

Re:parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935073)

You could like, not use them all if they're unneeded?

(I can't remember the last time I had mod points - it was years ago. No wonder moderation is going downhill if some people are getting ridiculous amounts of them, so they get to use them to mod down everyone they disagree with, whilst other people don't get any anymore...)

Re:parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934995)

The parent raises a valid point. If you are stupid enough to offer me money for a copy of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, Thomas Jefferson's or William Shakespeare's writings or anything else in the public domain, why shouldn't I accept your money?

Are you serious? You don't see a problem with the AP selling a "license" to use content that it doesn't own in the first place? What if you go to some random article, say written by the BBC or CNN, and maybe you're not paying attention (I know, journalists not paying attention, it's a stretch but stick with me) and you go to get a license to use that text from the AP, which they happily sell to you and give you a bunch of copyright info etc to use which says that you are legally allowed to post that content. You really don't see an issue there? The AP is taking your money and telling you that they are giving you rights which aren't actually theirs to give in the first place. At best that's gross incompetence, at worst it's fraud.

Re:parent is not trolling, get a clue mods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28935027)

Yes, if I pay you money for Wagner then you can just take it and smile.

However, AP doesn't do only that. They also claim copyright on the work and add limits to how you can use it.

On the other hand, even if it's really dumb I agree with you that it doesn't qualify as "smothering itself with a pillow".

Re:Goodnight, Sweet AP. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934645)

Which, given similar assertions made about countless other industries and companies, means they've got... oh... another thirty to forty years before anything bad happens to them, and we might be dead then, so we won't care?

Re:Goodnight, Sweet AP. (0, Flamebait)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934773)

I see an idiot not following directions and getting what he deserved. I would have kept his money.

fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934421)

ladies, get your pussies ready!

Re:fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934709)

wouldn't you rather have butt sex?

Free press (5, Insightful)

Mendoksou (1480261) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934425)

Should be changed to "$.46-a-word" press.

Re:Free press (2, Funny)

stinerman (812158) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934459)

If the going rate is $.46 per word, I'm in the wrong line.

Copy and paste the article text you want to use. (5, Insightful)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934429)

I'm afraid Mr. Grimmelman has a severe English comprehension deficiency. The instructions are a single sentence, clear as day. It says paste the article text you want to use. Not " paste whatever you like, and if our javascript form counts the words for you then consider it assertion of copyright by us.".

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (4, Insightful)

slashqwerty (1099091) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934475)

The Associated Press collects articles from reporters all over the world. I doubt those reporters submit articles royalty-free. How does the AP tie licensed text back to the article it applies to? Clearly they don't bother.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1)

RedK (112790) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934735)

Or they do a differed search for the licensed words and apply the royalties after the fact. Why would they need to find the article in real time ? They can just batch up requests and process them when there's less requests or on another system completely.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934757)

Did you try it? When I clicked on the licensing link "Click here for copyright permissions" the URL was tagged with a key: http://license.icopyright.net/3.5721?icx_id=D99RNEOO2 [icopyright.net]

Those numbers appear to be different for each article.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (2, Interesting)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934981)

How does the AP tie licensed text back to the article it applies to?

They do it by not paying royalties -- they do it by buying a license to distribute the article to others.

Let's say that you're, oh, a novelist with a 100,000 word novel, and a choice of how to get your payment. You can get paid 10% off the top for every one of your $10 books sold, OR you can get a $.10 a word for the right for the publisher to print your novel, and keep all the profit (or risk) to themselves.

If you're Stephen King, and can expect to easily sell way over 10,000 copies, you insist on the first deal. But if you're, oh, a nameless nobody, the $10k looks pretty good. Especially if you're already on to your next project, and need to feed your kids. And if you're a publisher that sells a LOT of almost randomly selected books, the latter looks good to you too--because you pay a fair amount of money to a lot of authors, and so get that lot of books you depend on.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (4, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935041)

Actually, I think virtually all book publishers only give money up front as an "advance against royalties." Often the figure is based on an estimate of how many copies will actually sell. If you write a computer book, for example, you'll probably never see much in the way of royalties beyond the original advance, because the publisher will be able to predict the market for your book and compensate you appropriately. I've heard of few instances where modern book publishers pay by the word. Magazine publishers, on the other hand, often do -- but then, the lengths of magazine articles are usually dictated by the magazine's editors.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935009)

The Associated Press collects articles from reporters all over the world. I doubt those reporters submit articles royalty-free.

Really? I have never heard of a news reporter earning royalties. Reporters who want royalties write books.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1, Interesting)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934483)

/thread

This is a non-story. Some dude wanted to prove a point no one should care to prove. And he did.

Maybe the real point isn't done yet. Maybe the real point is that tech-news places will post any drivel they can find as news that they can flimsily relate to "your rights" and technology.
If that is the case I eagerly await his follow up story.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (0)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934747)

Here here, mod parent up. Stupid is as stupid does.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (3, Insightful)

Mendoksou (1480261) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934499)

Good point. And they did refund the money. I guess the flaw is assuming that the user wants to play by the rules, and I suppose we'd be complaining even at the unnecessary restrictions to account for the users who do not. We can make any machine look stupid when we misuse it.

The beef here I think is that they have the 'audacity' to sell the license... but now that I think about it, it's still a much better system than trying to contact a real person and deal with it. Still, I don't think it should be too hard to have a JavaScript check to see if the words come from the actual article. At the very least that might help prevent people from accidentally misquoting it if they are silly and type by hand or copy the wrong article or whatever.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934635)

We can make any machine look stupid when we misuse it.

Rule #1: Never trust user input.

Still, I don't think it should be too hard to have a JavaScript check to see if the words come from the actual article.

LOL @ Javascript
They need a database of every AP article ever published.
Then they can either hash the pasted text & try to find
the source or they can require you to provide a citation.
Either way, you don't want to do that client-side with javascript.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1, Insightful)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934701)

They don't need a database of every article published. They offered a service that made it easy to obtain permission to use text from works they hold a copyright of and someone purposefully misused the system to attempt to prove a *worthless* point.
Now, I find the whole need for the system stupid, I can't believe most uses wouldn't be under fair use anyways, and I'm sure the AP eats babies.

However, there is nothing inherently wrong with the service, all this person did is make me think he's an ass out trying to prove a misguided point. So the AP took his money when he went to them offering it? Wow! Horrible.

Get back to me when the AP sues him over misusing the system. That would be worthy of a story.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934505)

Way to ruin the funny with your so called "english comprehension."

Anyway, it is still pretty funny that they "revoked" his "license" instead of laughing it off or pointing out that the real failure was his.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (5, Insightful)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934563)

But I think his point was to ridicule the ridiculous assumption from AP that they should be able to restrict access to and license on a per-word basis any text "more than four consecutive words" in the first place. The Jefferson quote helps him make the point. The fact that the software is basically just a word counter adds a level of lol, but I don't think that was the main point of this experiment.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (0)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934675)

The Jefferson quote helps him make the point.

He may as well have quoted Elmer Fudd, since Jefferson was talking about inventions (patents), not copyright.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934827)

True - I considered writing "The Jefferson quote, however out of context..." but I figured that was a separate issue...

you mean FUD right? ... (1)

bukuman (1129741) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934937)

Can you provide a link to substantiate your claim? I had trouble finding anything definitive.

Also for everyone's reference here is a more complete quote of Jefferson:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (5, Insightful)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935123)

That's true. Jefferson's 1813 letter to Isaac McPherson concerned itself with inventions and patents, which had been an area of special interest to Jefferson as he was 1) an inventor; 2) Secretary of State during a period where he had responsibility for reviewing patent applications and issuing patents; 3) opposed to monopolies as a general rule.

However, it is widely recognized that Jefferson's argument, which is made at a very high level, is perfectly applicable to copyrights. After all, copyrights and patents are more closely related to one another than to, say, trademarks, or anything else, and at that high of a level, the underlying logic is basically the same.

Hanlon's razor (1)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934593)

Why would the AP charge for words it doesn't own? Is it malice or incompetence on their part?

Re:Hanlon's razor (3, Insightful)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934727)

Why would you put words they don't own into their licensing software? Is it malice or stupidity on your part?

Re:Hanlon's razor (2, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935029)

To demonstrate how stupid it is. The whole point of the tool is to tell you how much (if any) you have to pay them - if you already know that, what's the point of the tool?

Consider, supposing I want to licence an article, and within that article is a large chunk of text that's quoted from Jefferson or whoever. This suggests that it would happily include those words in the cost calculation. I guess it's their right to charge whatever arbitrary value they like for a whole article, but this is all the more reason for stories like this to be publicised, so that people are aware of how the tool works. Plus, what if someone did want to quote a Jefferson quotation that happened to be in an article? The point is that they'll happily claim ownership, so it's important for people to be aware of how brain dead and simple the tool is.

Re:Hanlon's razor (5, Informative)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934741)

He *offered* to pay them for words they don't own and they accepted his money since the mechanism for doing so does not check ownership. It's simply a word count. AP did not seek him out to collect charges. That is a big difference. In fact, that difference to me is why it's a non-story. Basically the AP is charging on a "per word" basis. So all they need to do count words. That someone decided to pay the AP for a worthless license and the AP decided to issue a worthless license doesn't mean anything. No laws were broken. No trust broken. No rights violated. The person did this with intent to gain a worthless license even. He got what he paid for.

Re:Hanlon's razor (2, Insightful)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934761)

Why would the AP charge for words it doesn't own? Is it malice or incompetence on their part?

Well, why would anyone request a license from AP for words that AP doesn't own? Is Grimmelmann too incompetent to figure out why the whole premise of his exercise is inane, or is he maliciously trying to portray AP as greedy when their only "sin" here is not making their systems impervious to idiots who would throw their money away?

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934807)

I'm afraid the AP has a code deficiency. You you telling me they cannot validate the text against their OWN article database before "licensing" its usage? Are they arrogant enough to assume that almost all combination of words that been used in their reports? They apparently got the credit card automation to work properly.

This is behavior you would expect from some cheesy Nigerian scam artists, not a supposedly prestigious news source.

Sorry the AP deserves the embarrassment they got.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (3, Insightful)

j1mmy (43634) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934829)

What if Jefferson's quote had been used in the article?

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935049)

    I was about to ask the same thing. I've seen plenty of famous quotes show up in AP stories. And, those are just the ones I've seen. AP sucks up and redistributes so many stories, it's virtually impossible for any individual to have read them all (except on the weekends, when it's all just recycled news).

    But, if the article is right, they're claiming that quote ran in the AP story AP sources: Military-civilian terror prison eyed [google.com] . If you read the story, it clearly didn't. Or at least the quote has been withdrawn. I thought maybe it could have been words close together, but a few key words didn't show up, so that isn't the case either. So it's clearly not the story that they claimed.

    If you check through Google News, the only news site with the quote "if nature has made any one thing less susceptible" is Slashdot, but I'm sure this will start popping up all over the place. That pretty much, but not totally, eliminates recent stories. It's possible that it's in an AP story, that simply hasn't shown up anywhere. They sit on all kinds of stuff that'll never see the light of day.

    I'm pretty sure their tool is only weighing how big the quote is for a price tag. It's up to you to find it in an AP story and pay through their tool. I don't know why they cited an original article, if that wasn't really the article cited.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1)

JonChance (1115393) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934903)

I'm afraid Mr. Grimmelman has a severe English comprehension deficiency. The instructions are a single sentence, clear as day. It says paste the article text you want to use. Not " paste whatever you like, and if our javascript form counts the words for you then consider it assertion of copyright by us.".

No , Mr. Grimmelman is an incredibly talented smart-ass. Two thumbs up for the quote , another two for exposing the software / programming flaw. I'll even give it another two thumbs up for , in general , creating all of this debate and pissing in somebody's wheaties. You have an absolutely wonderful day

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935053)

I bet at some point in their history they quoted this same passage of text, and this is what they guy wanted to use.

Re:Copy and paste the article text you want to use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28935077)

What if the Jefferson quote appear in an AP article? It's still public domain.

brain-dead? (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934441)

I don't think so; the software did exactly what it was supposed to do. What is brain-dead here is the AP thinking that this sort of thing is a good idea in the first place. I can understand them wanting to charge for the use of entire articles in commercial databases or such, but I can't imagine a situation in which you would want to use "more than four consecutive words" (but less than entire articles) for anything that wouldn't be covered by fair use anyway.

Re:brain-dead? (2, Interesting)

yincrash (854885) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934493)

The moral of the story is don't let content owners tell you what is acceptable fair use, because OF COURSE they will always err on it being not fair use. I think that for anyone who legitimately wants to follow the law and legitimately use a large portion of text, having a tool like this is pretty great. It's better than the alternatives of having to hassle with trying to find someone w/in the AP that can license to you or just illegally copying the text outright.


but again, if you know you are w/in fair use, then use it, or ask an expert, don't ask the content owner.

why is it great? (2, Insightful)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934523)

All this tool does is count the number of words in a block of text. Every word processor and text editor I can think of has this feature already built in. And the premise that the copyright owner should be able to charge on a per-word basis (especially in text made up largely of quotations from other sources, as most AP articles are) is truly preposterous.

Re:why is it great? (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934715)

Why? Authors get paid by the word. What metric should they use?

Re:why is it great? (4, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935045)

And the premise that the copyright owner should be able to charge on a per-word basis

Stop.

A copyright holder can charge on any basis they damn well want. Either you have a valid fair use case, and can ignore them, or you don't, and have ZERO RIGHT to use their work without tehir say-so.

Re:brain-dead? (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934819)

I can understand them wanting to charge for the use of entire articles in commercial databases or such, but I can't imagine a situation in which you would want to use "more than four consecutive words" (but less than entire articles) for anything that wouldn't be covered by fair use anyway.

It's worse than that. It's dangerous for anyone ever to use this tool. By using this tool and paying AP for a license to use N words, you might be acknowledging that you believe that any bit of text N words or greater is not covered by fair use. It's better to get wrongly sued for a fair use than to give up fair use entirely.

I am Adolf Hilter (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934443)

All Heil my swasticock.

And so it begins... (1)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934449)

APAFIA

There's a market for meaningless licenses. (5, Interesting)

Frater 219 (1455) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934457)

I've known folks whose workplaces used to pay Sun a license fee for Perl ... the same Perl you could download for free (as in beer); and yes, the same Perl that is one of the usual examples of successful free (as in speech) software.

No, they didn't get tech support. They didn't get to file bugs against Perl that would be resolved by a Sun engineer. They didn't even get a custom build of Perl optimized for their Sun hardware. They didn't even get a CD. What they got was an invoice ... precisely what their company's IT procurement process required.

It's idiotic, but there is in fact a market for nothing: if you are correctly positioned as a trusted supplier, there are cases when you can get paid for delivering no product at all, but merely for carrying out the ritual of delivering a product, with all the paperwork thereunto appertaining.

RIAA/MPAA (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934705)

It's idiotic, but there is in fact a market for nothing: if you are correctly positioned as a trusted supplier

Finally! An explanation for the RIAA/MPAA and other association's sense of entitlement that we can all understand!

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (1)

BabyDuckHat (1503839) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934731)

I'm going to start a business selling licenses to things that I don't own. It will be a covenant from me that if I do ever become the owner of said property, I won't sue you for not paying me. It's important to be BabyDuckHat compliant.

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (1)

rattaroaz (1491445) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934883)

I'm going to start a business selling licenses to things that I don't own. It will be a covenant from me that if I do ever become the owner of said property, I won't sue you for not paying me. It's important to be BabyDuckHat compliant.

Sorry. I already own a patent for that. Pay up, buddy. Brought to you by Rattaroaz compliance authorities.

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (4, Funny)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934745)

if you are correctly positioned as a trusted supplier, there are cases when you can get paid for delivering no product at all, but merely for carrying out the ritual of delivering a product, with all the paperwork thereunto appertaining.

there's no need to bring religion into this

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934755)

"paperwork thereunto appertaining"

That's now the new name of my acid rock band.

Thanks!

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (3, Funny)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934765)

I've known folks whose workplaces used to pay Sun a license fee for Perl ... the same Perl you could download for free (as in beer); and yes, the same Perl that is one of the usual examples of successful free (as in speech) software.

No, they didn't get tech support. They didn't get to file bugs against Perl that would be resolved by a Sun engineer. They didn't even get a custom build of Perl optimized for their Sun hardware. They didn't even get a CD. What they got was an invoice ... precisely what their company's IT procurement process required...

Yeah, I noticed SQLite allows for the option of purchasing a license, even though it is public domain, for that exact reason - when someone who doesn't get it above you makes you buy a license. Then they charge $1000. Heh.

Which makes me wonder... if it is in the public domain, couldn't anyone sell a license for it? And if that's the case, couldn't *I* sell a license for it, for cheaper? I could sell SQLite licenses for a mere $500!

Anyone know about that?
-Taylor

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (1)

maharb (1534501) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934901)

You can definitely sell a download or something for $500, what you say in your "license" may change if you can sell that. But in general the answer to your question is yes, you can sell it for $500. Finding a buy is step 1.

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934941)

Yes, you can sell public domain works. No one can stop you since no one holds a copyright to it.

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935155)

Yes, you can sell public domain works. No one can stop you since no one holds a copyright to it.

Hah, nice. That would be a hilarious business.
-Taylor

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934929)

Capitalism is based on the idea of value added. Libertarian and republican politics is based on the idea that government interference has a net benefit in limited cases. It is up to the consumer to make sure that the value added is worth the costs charged. For instance, a bottle of tap water is sold for a dollar. A throwaway guitar with a picture of Hannah Montana on it is sold for $50. A nylon bag with a prada label is a thousand. Is it up to government to restrict these values?

No, the issue is not that these things are sold. The issue is there are dumb asses out there who will borrow, cheat, and steal to own these things. There is nothing wrong with the things, only that we create a system in which people will ruin their lives to acquire the things.

So if Sun sells a license to perl, maybe it does provide added value. If the AP is going to sell a license, it may not make sense for quotes, but it may make sense for other things. People pay huge amounts of money for a Christian Bilble when a free version has the same words. This is just good sales.

Re:There's a market for meaningless licenses. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934943)

I'm starting a company in Europe and applying for financing from the Government. If I'd buy 'free stuff' from a 'friendly business' I could get it covered, but I can't pay wages for a person my company to do it with the financing. The situation is absurd, and it forces you to outsource everything in the first phases in order to get funding.

I'm sure a friendly organization would be more than happy to receive free money for an agreement to provide something for me off the books.

I'm practically forced to INVENT expenses in order to get financing for the stuff I actually need to do due to these stupid rules. I'm sure there's something alike involved here. (We _must_ spend 75% of our expenses to research and out of house expertise eventhough we've got all those aspects covered -- we just need to be able to pay people to work with the product for a while before we can release it. It's absurd that the resourcing covers outsiders' wages but not OURS.)

Sheesh, I could rant about this for ages and ages. Even more coherently than now. And with a real idea instead of random rambling.

not surprising (2, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934479)

considering AP is a company that doesn't allow anything resembling fair use is it really surprising tht they would show the kind of laziness demonstrated here? Assuming some court doesn't strike this nonsense down as a violation of fair use rights, the system is completely broken and should be either reformed greatly or abolished.

Re:not surprising (1)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934875)

You know that most articles have the "(source: AP)" tag on them in most major news outlets. Guess what: they are a damn big chunk of the system.

As for your assertion: morally and by the law of about 100 years ago the answer is yes, today..

Re:not surprising (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935019)

if they can make more by cheating and/or laziness they should be expected to do so. this is not surprising, it is simply the result of millions of years of evolutionary selection- look out for you and yours through means available to you.

Re:not surprising (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935197)

Assuming some court doesn't strike this nonsense down as a violation of fair use rights

Fair Use is not a right. Free speech is a right. Fair Use is a defense against copyright infringement, due to the otherwise chilling affect it would have upon free speech.

And court's can't "strike down" private actions; they simply refuse to recognize them as legally valid.

Fun fact: when you make a contract (like the AP's license), there are three critically important things you should know:
1: Who wrote it. (You or them?)
2: What jurisdiction is covered (Do you just agree that you'd fly out to CA to defend yourself?)
3: What that jurisdiction has said about contracts like yours before.

go easy on them (2, Funny)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934491)

Maybe they just think that no one has used those words in that particular order before.

That's it... (5, Funny)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934519)

I'm writing a computer program that will figure out every word combination that can possibly be used to form a sentence, and then copyrighting the output. When someone writes something somewhere, I'll sue them for copyright infringement.

Don't even think about stealing this idea. I have it patent pending on it!

Re:That's it... (1)

BabyDuckHat (1503839) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934763)

That's a surprisingly sound business plan. /weeps

Four words? (3, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934521)

At least using "free as in beer" stays free as in beer.

Godfatheads (1)

carrier lost (222597) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934567)

I think it's delightful that the very thing (the internet) which has caused the various IP Mafia's to go all horse-head on everyone is the same thing that exposes their stupidity.

Re:Godfatheads (4, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934891)

...is the same thing that exposes their stupidity.

I think that was the whole point to the exercise...missed by some above. The content provider trying to extort people into paying license fees they may not need. This exercise demonstrates that the content provider in question can't positively identify their own material or material that they can't legitimately claim as intellectual property. They can't conclusively back up the need for anyone to license a particular piece. They're ignoring the context, intended use and trying to rewrite fair use by their own definition.

This exercise exposes that it's a scam, an online shake down. I think it actually works against their IP claims.

Kdawson strikes again! (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934577)

I can has good submission now?

AP now authorizes free speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934587)

Quick! Get your AP-approved stamp for any block of text. Act now and get AP "permission" to post DeCSS code.

Reuters text? (4, Interesting)

AhNewBis (42974) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934595)

What if the AP sells you a license for text copyrighted by Reuters or any of the other wire services? Woah, man!

Re:Reuters text? (4, Funny)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934793)

what if you buy a quotation that is itself quoting another AP article? Do you have to pay twice? What if the article is quoting itself? An infinite loop of profitability! Finally online content has a sustainable business model.

Re:Reuters text? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934965)

someone should piece together an intelligent, thoughtful response using 3 word sequences from different AP articles.

Re:Reuters text? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934967)

Could be interesting. I've been quoted in several news articles(CP, AP, and AFP). I wonder if they owe me royalties now.

Re:Reuters text? (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935213)

Unless their license allows relicensing to third parties, they'd likely get sued for copyright infringement and perhaps even fraud.

Wouldn't it be sweet?

hey slashfags (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934647)

suck my dick!

kdawson is a whore to cmdrdildo.

Wow, (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934669)

Send this genius to my website, I'll sell him a bridge I don't own. Who would be stupid enough to pay someone for word he knows they don't own. If I were AP I would have kept his money.

Re:Wow, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934817)

Did you see that? I think I saw the Big Picture fly right over your head.

Re:Wow, (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934853)

No I think you failed to grasp the stupidity of pasting text from something you "Know They Don't Own"(c) and then complaining to the world that they committed fraud by taking you're money. The directions clearly state that you should paste the text of their article that you wish to license. I wonder which word the genius didn't understand.

Re:Wow, (1)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935035)

The big picture flew right over your head ages ago, I wonder if there's a way at all for you to see it. Maybe a cam streaming from a city in the arctic?

26 words???? what!???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934743)

LICENSE FOR 26 WORDS ? THIS IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS!!!

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION?? WHERE? :(

Where is the world I knew 22 years ago...It's so sad the path we are taking... // Kyle, PT

Found Step 2! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934769)

Wow...the plan...it..makes sense....more than 3 steps...but...still

Step 1: Publish & copyright some document
Step 2: Get content quoted by AP
Step 3: Request license to use my own material from AP
Step 4: Sue for infringement, with the license they sold me to use my own material as a confession that they consider that snippet substantial and valuable enough to copyright--collect $150k per publication.

kind of a stupid complaint... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934771)

Of course the software is stupid... designing software that would detect whether the text was copyrighted by AP or not would be prohibitively expensive... which defeats the whole point of the software.

The point of the software is to sell cheap licenses. That's it. If the text you are using is fair use, don't buy a license. If it's not fair use, or it's a gray area, then you can use their tool to buy a license on the cheap.

I would also point out to everyone here that there is no defined word limit on what is and what is not fair use. Fair use is analyzed in courts using a four factor test, and the amount taken is only *one* of the factors used. Depending on how the other factors turn out, there could be no fair use even for a very short quote.

Painfully stupid story (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28934805)

All the AP is offering to sell you is a license to tread on any copyright they may own with regard to the work in question. In the article's case, they didn't have any copyright to enforce with regard to Jefferson's work, and the author was stupid to pay for something he didn't need a license to reproduce.

Tell you what: send me the address of a parcel of real estate and $45 per parcel, and I will execute a deed disclaiming any interest I might have in the parcel(s) you've selected. That's essentially what the AP is doing here, but in my example, it's obvious that the guy paying the $45 is the idiot, not the guy receiving it.

The whole thing reminds me of an ancient Slashdot troll, whose posts consisted entirely of "Don't forget to pay your $600 SCO licensing fee, you cock-smoking teabags!" How come we didn't get stories sympathetic to people who actually paid SCO for something that SCO didn't have the right to sell them in the first place?

A question of volume (1)

velen (1198819) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934843)

Given the volume of data AP processes in a day and the requests for copying information, they are liable to make mistakes. The fact remains that they issued a refund of sorts, so it is clear that they have a review process in place. The licensing software can be better, but that is a different issue. I don't see any reason to mock AP for this one. The author pretty much does a "HA! HA! I fooled you and wasted your time!". Pathetic.

Four words? (1)

Dirtside (91468) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934961)

That is the dumbest... Damn! Can I get a license to finish this, AP?

HowToSaveAlotOfMoneyWithTheAP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28935207)

Interesting, all you need todo is take all the spaces out of the paragraphs too and you save a fortune.
No, really, try it.

This is really, really, FSCKING stupid (1)

Theovon (109752) | more than 4 years ago | (#28935233)

And I'm referring to the article and the guy who decided to do this "experiment."

(1) This software is designed for you to be able to license content licensable by AP. It assumes that the content you want to license was gotten from AP, because only people who want to license from AP will fill out the form to license text from AP. DUH.
(2) Technically, It may be prohibitive for them to write their software to sift through terabytes of text for every license request to ensure that the text you asked to license is (a) in there and (b) not licensed from someone else or public domain.
(3) It's fucking easy for anyone to guess that their software would behave this way.
(4) It's fucking unnecessary for it to be "smart" enough to second-guess stupid people who try to do this.
(5) Anyone knowingly trying to license from AP something not owned by AP is being a jerk.
(6) Anyone unknowingly trying to license from AP something not owned by AP is an idiot because they didn't do their homework.
(7) If you're a competent journalist, you'll know your rights, research the origin of content you want to quote, and attribute and license it appropriately. That's YOUR responsibility.

We all like a laugh at the expense of the **AA or the various media outlets. We are righteously outraged when they knowingly claim ownership of content that is not theirs. We are righteously outraged when they issue take-down notices for things that are obviously fair use.

But this is just fucking useless and stupid. I'm sorry. I'm pissed about this guy wasting our time with this, and some of you jackasses are swallowing it hook, line, and sinker. What pisses me off is that organizations like the AP are doing all kinds of things that REALLY ARE unfair, and yet some dick decides he's going to start picking on a non-issue. Now WE'RE the jackasses who are harrassing the AP. Two wrongs don't make a right.

I see nothing wrong with this service. I think it's perfectly sensible. The AP is just trying to save themselves and everyone else time and money by developing a convenient automated system for licensing content. Doing it this way saves on all sorts of legal, technical, and manpower costs. If they were to put in the effort to develop a system that would second-guess idiots who try to license content that's not actually under AP's control, it would cost ass-loads of money, and the service would be slow as shit. It wouldn't be worth the expense, so they'd shut it down and return to the old, expensive, manual way of doing things. You can argue about whether or not it's right for them to charge AT ALL for content. But that's a separate issue. Courts will uphold that they DO have a right to license at least SOME of their content, and this automated system is helping them keep volumes up and individual license fees down.

If you really want to catch the AP with their pants down, you'll have to find a situation (and I'm sure there are many) where the AP have explicitly (with a human involved) claimed ownership of content that wasn't theirs. In the case discussed in this article, I don't think it would stand up in any court that their automated system was being malicious, because the fact that they charged for a license doesn't necessarily imply ownership. Nowhere in any of this is any intent to defraud or deceive. The only way for you to be tricked by this system is to trick yourself.

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