A story of the AP, bloggers, journalists, and insurance

Some would use the term "blogstorm" to describe the frenzy surrounding The Drudge Retort's run-in with the AP. Now that it has announced "case closed," and the storm is passing, we see a lone insurance salesman trudging through the clearing fog.

After BetaNews ran a story last week about the dispute between the Associated Press and the social news site and blog Drudge Retort that appeared to have led to the AP laying down a "pay per word" scheme for bloggers, Media Bloggers Association President Robert Cox sent us a message entitled, "Your story is entirely false."

In that article, we stated that Cox would be meeting with the AP on June 19 to discuss a compromise that would enable bloggers to excerpt AP stories without fear of receiving takedown notices. Our information about this meeting appeared to have been verified by an excerpt of an AP story that was reprinted on the Media Bloggers Association Web site, under the heading "MBA News," with no apparent reason to consider the excerpt untrue or inaccurate.

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In his e-mail to BetaNews, Mr. Cox asserted that our "pay-per-quote" facts were "wholly inaccurate," and that his purpose of his meeting with Jim Kennedy, the AP's vice president for strategic planning, was also misinterpreted. He went so far as to link to our story in his blog, calling it an amazing conflation of two entirely false stories, though his post was otherwise dedicated to stopping the misinformation and hype surrounding the whole situation.

It is at this point where we must endeavor to correct some misinformation in our article. The Associated Press does, in fact, have a Web use excerpt charge. However, it was designed neither expressly with bloggers in mind, nor was it triggered by the dispute with The Drudge Retort.

Furthermore, as President of the Media Bloggers Association, Robert Cox was not scheduled to meet with the Associated Press to develop any policies, nor was he going as a diplomatic emissary for the blogosphere as a whole. This from Cox himself, who disputes stories originally published by the organization with which he was purported to be meeting.

But where does the Media Bloggers Association fit into the Associated Press and Drudge Retort DMCA takedown affair? According to Cox, both parties enlisted his group for help: The Retort's Rogers Cadenhead was offered pro bono legal support and intervention from the MBA "to see if we could resolve the matter without getting into a major legal battle...My hope was that we could work with AP to quickly and quietly resolve this matter as we have done so often in the past."

Jim Kennedy of the AP said the group planned no further action against Cadenhead, but Cox raised the issue of other DMCA takedown notices and the potential for counterclaims being filed against the AP, pressing a meeting which was scheduled to take place yesterday. Cox was explicit in his blog, saying the only purpose of his meeting with Kennedy was "to sort out what to do about the outstanding DMCA Take Down Notices" -- not to devise some scheme for charging bloggers per word, not to assist the AP in coming up with any sort of guidelines for fair use in blogs.

The MBA did offer to help by assisting the AP in the promotion of any blogger guidelines the media group would eventually create. "The concern being that no one would know the outcome of such discussions and so any guidelines they came up with would be a tree falling in the forest. Jim [Kennedy] knew the MBA could help with such things because our members include quite a few widely read bloggers who would most likely have been willing to consider putting up a post about it if they were asked," according to Cox.

Today, a press release from the AP declared "case closed" in the Drudge Retort affair, while some bloggers and news sources turned to Cox for clarification. Though no official policy was announced, and the outstanding DMCA takedown notices that troubled Cox initially were not mentioned, it looks like the blogstorm is officially at an end.

In his blog, Cox admits he himself has "engaged in many past efforts to stir up blogstorms, my purpose in doing so for the MBA has always been to shine a bright light on improper attempts to suppress blogger speech in order to advance the mission of the MBA."

However, he added, "None have generated this level of interest...While we are sorry for Rogers Cadenhead personally, we are pleased that more people are now aware of the legal risks facing bloggers and the need for legal and financial resources to defend blogger speech."

Therefore, in the wake of this fervid interest in bloggers' rights, the Media Bloggers Association has seized the opportunity to lay out its timeline for what it calls "the first-ever media liability insurance for bloggers," which will have its online portal go live on July 15. Cox has been working on this project for almost four years, hoping to provide bloggers the sort of insurance that film, TV, and newspaper companies can obtain.

Through a partnership with Media Pro Insurance, the MBA will offer a program to its members which makes coverage "affordable for many bloggers who need this type of insurance (as the AP-Drudge Retort case clearly shows) but could not otherwise obtain it."

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