When you visit NewsBusters.org and read a report taking the Associated Press to task for its continuous leftward bias, are you reading "stolen" AP content, or are you reading legitimate news? Is criticism of AP's work fair use? What is "fair use," anyway? Could the AP sue critics?
These questions might be on the AP's radar if a recent report in The New York Times is any indication. AP is attempting to create new policies to govern who uses AP content and where it is used. The APs attention to these issues could have long range impact on blogs and newsfeeds on the Internet.
Thus far, the actual policies and goals and how the AP will tackle this aspect of its business have not been determined. Are they going to take on the definition of "fair use" to court? Is the AP going to go after any particular agency or news site for what it considers unauthorized use?
It seems that Google is one of APs targets and that is a target that news agencies in other countries have already taken on. A few nations have already demanded that Google pay fees or stop excerpting and web searching hits of their domestic news sources.
But, how far will all of this go? Will the AP go so far as to track down just any website that used excerpts of AP wire copy? Will AP take on "fair use" and determine any usage at all is unauthorized? Could NewsBusters or other sites that use AP columns a grist for their own type of work end up in court?
Since no one has really ever tried to test these ideas in court, it really is all up in the air legally. In any case, it is something to watch carefully.