Woot Raises a Zombie Lie From the Dead (Again)

The AP does not charge bloggers to quote its stories

The left blogosphere has a useful concept called “zombie lies“—information that’s false and been debunked but continues to pop up as if it were the gospel truth.

So it is with the meme that the Associated Press wants you to pay $12.50 to quote five words of any of its stories online. It just won’t die, despite being beyond dumb—not to mention false.

Woot, which Amazon just bought for $110 million, brings it up again in a jokey post calling for $17.50 from the AP for quoting its blog, and the BS is making the rounds of the usual suspects—TechCrunch, techdirt, Newser, etc.—for what must be the tenth time.

So let me put it as clearly as I can: The AP doesn’t charge bloggers to quote small excerpts of its stories, nor will it sue us for linking to them.

While you can excuse Woot for making this cheap mistake, there’s less reason for folks like techdirt and TechCrunch, and even less for PaidContent .

Here’s Woot:

The AP, we can’t thank you enough for looking our way. You see, when we showed off our good news on Wednesday afternoon, we expected we’d get a little bit of attention. But when we found your little newsy thing you do, we couldn’t help but notice something important. And that something is this: you printed our web content in your article! The web content that came from our blog! Why, isn’t that the very thing you’ve previously told nu-media bloggers they’re not supposed to do?

So, The AP, here we are. Just to be fair about this, we’ve used your very own pricing scheme to calculate how much you owe us. By looking through the link above, and comparing your post with our original letter, we’ve figured you owe us roughly $17.50 for the content you borrowed from our blog post, which, by the way, we worked very very hard to create. But, hey. We’re all friends here. And invoicing is such a hassle in today’s paperless society, are we right? How about this: instead of cutting us a check for the web content you liberated from our site, all you’ll need to do is show us your email receipt from today’s two pack of Sennheiser MX400 In-Ear Headphones, and we’ll call it even.

There’s a form online where you can license AP content. Who needs a license? Somebody who wants to use them for things like reprints, which media organizations have long charged for. In other words, if you’re a small business mentioned favorably in an AP story and you want to feature that quote on your website or in your newsletter, you have to pay for a reprint license. That’s nothing new, and the AP has made it explicit that the licensing service “is not aimed at bloggers”:

The iCopyright form that enables users to license AP content online is drawing new attention this week.

It is an automated form, thus explaining how one blogger got it to charge him for the words of a former president.

As the AP stated more than a year ago, the form is not aimed at bloggers. It is intended to make it easy for people who want to license AP content to do so.

So this from TechCrunch is just embarrassing:

According to the AP’s own ridiculous rules for using quotations, Woot figures that the AP owes them $17.50.

The AP has been banned on TechCrunch for two years now because of this ridiculous rule. In fact, we’re breaking our own rule here by acknowledging they even exist. But this is too good to pass up — and it’s actually similar to something we did a couple years ago, trying to charge the AP $12.50 for their usage of quotes from us. To my knowledge, we’re still waiting for that check.

Please, TechCrunch, let us know if the AP has ever tried to bill you or any other blogger by the word.

It’s long past time for this zombie lie to bite it.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.