It appears that Associated Press sent several copyright take down notice to The Drudge Retort to take down several posting and user comments that is alleged to have infringed its copyright since they cut-and-paste sections of AP reports. NYTime’s coverage is the most balanced view of the topic. Those take down notices created an anger over the net. It appears that AP has now back down in the sense that it will not take things further but still claim infringement. The NYTime’s blogpost clearly show that AP has a PR disaster at hand and is trying to contain it.
The details of the postings are listed at Cadenhead. IANAL, but my view is that it is inappropriate to take the number of words copied to decide whether is there any infringement. In this case, although the actual word count that was copied was low, one must take into account that the actual number of words is the article is also relatively low. My rule of thumb is to dismiss less than 10% of the article is used, than generally I won’t say it is an infringement. In at least two of the quotes, the 10% rule is more than exceeded. However, as I had said, this is only a rule of thumb and is known to be problematic in the case of short articles. For example, if I write two sentences of 10 words each, it will be unreasonable for me to say you infringed my copyright by creating a quote of 10 words. AP’s articles are rather short here.
Moreover, as the NY Time’s post point out, even the Supreme Court do not believe all words in the article are created equal. This complicates the argument of course and make it a very subjective issue.
To complicate matter further, morally I feel that if you had indicated the source of your quote, then you are afforded a bigger tolerance before an infringement kicks in. As usual, the way you use it counts. If the quote is merely 1% of your posting will turn the table slightly in your favour.
In short, it is a complicated thing. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, I think whether we see a case of infringement here is debatable.
However, I know when things went overboard. One of the consequence of this debate is we see someone, in this case Channel Web, digs up AP’s partnership iCopyright program. I leave it to you to ponder whether charging for using even as low as 5 words from an article is outrageous.