Want to quote 5-25 words from an AP story? That’ll be $12.50. ($7.50 for non-profit or educational use.) The AP has published a form that details the cost of an “Excerpt for Web Use” license.
The AP has a right to discourage people from posting the full content of articles online, just as you or I retain the copyright to our own writing (unless we explicitly give those rights away). But to charge money even for brief quotations is to reject the Section 107 of the Copyright Act — known as the “Fair Use Exception.”
§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include–(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.
Note that copying an entire book (or song, or movie) in order to avoid purchasing it is not “fair use.” Showing a clip from a movie in class, or posting quotations from a novel to back up a review or literary research paper, are all covered by “fair use.”
Access to the words of public officials, as reported from various news sources, is an important part of the democratic process. A candidate being interviewed on ABC should be able to quote from what an opponent said on NBC, and someone who calls in on a CBS show should be able to quote from what a guest said on CNN. The Fair Use Exception recognizes that anyone engaging in “criticism” or “comment” should have the same the ability to quote brief passages from published materials.