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Today’s Topic: STEALING!

June 18, 2008

Okay, I’ll admit it — I like Coldplay. Sigh. I know.

My not-so-secret shame has been getting a real workout with the all-Coldplay-all-the-time media blitz surrounding their new album. We were in England Outer Space when the first single, “Violet Hill” launched, and we got to hear it nonstop on BBC 1, 2, 3, 4, and Cymru. And it wasn’t bad. So, yes, I downloaded it from the band’s web page when we got back. It was free. Sue me.

Then the title track from the album, “Viva La Vida,” launched. I really liked it. And then I started down that slippery slope of musical turpitude that ends with me buying the album… which hasn’t happened yet, but it seems only a matter of time.

But then The Spouse noticed that Dr. Atrios over at Eschaton had dropped this bombshell:

Wow. The new Coldplay song, Viva la Vida, really is a Buggles ripoff. I hope Chris Martin at least wears the trademark specs when he sings.

(If, like me, “Buggles” rang a few bells, but nothing really came to mind, it may make you feel better to re-learn that Buggles (no definite article) were the New Wave band behind the first video broadcast on MTV: “Video Killed the Radio Star.” So now you know.)

Personally, I don’t really hear it. But beyond “VKtRS,” I’m not a Buggles aficionado. More’s the pity, I suppose, given my love of all things New Wave. But I digress…

And then, to make matters worse, I spot this video over on the Viral Video Chart:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUhFLiw6h6s

Now I don’t know what to believe! But it seems that Mr. Gwenyth Paltrow has some explaining to do.

And speaking of having some explaining to do, WTF is up with the Associated Press? The New York Times explains:

Last week, The A.P. took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.

The AP position is that quoting from AP articles in a blog post is stealing from the AP, which sells its articles to newspapers for reprinting. Unfortunately, the AP here runs seriously afoul of the Fair Use doctrine, a problem noticed immediately by a huge number of prominent bloggers across the political spectrum. (For a good rundown of some of the heavy hitters weighing in on this, check out Cernig’s post at Newshoggers.)

There is, of course, a boycott of AP now, as bloggers attempt to show the AP exactly what it is that quoting from them and linking to newspaper sites that publish them does for those newspapers. (Hint: it increases their number of page views, which increases their advertising fees, which increases their profits, which increases the demand for AP articles. Pretty neat, huh?) Well, not any more.

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This is a real problem for me, and has been for a while, frankly. Not because I deeply want to steal from the AP (I don’t), nor because I’m especially angry that the AP is trying to steal the right of Fair Use away from online writers (they can’t). It’s a problem because here in bucolic Vermont our local paper is positively filled with articles from the AP. In today’s Burlington Free Press, for instance, the front page section included 26 articles from the AP. There were 4 articles from Free Press reporters.

I read the local paper every day and the New York Times on Sundays. If I want to share with you or anyone an article I read in the paper, I have an 87% chance of running into the AP news blockade. And I’m not talking about the boycott — the Free Press doesn’t put AP articles on their web page. That means that if I want to post a link to an article, or print it out for my students, I have to try to track down another newspaper somewhere that also ran the story and print it out from something like the DesMoines Register or the Dallas Morning News. Ugh!

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