The Associated Press is giving away video content--inadvertently, it seems--on its YouTube channel, but don't embed it in your blog unless you're ready for a fight. That's what happened earlier this week to AP affiliate WTNQ-FM in Tennessee, who received a cease-and-desist letter from the AP's Chicago office after posting content from the AP's YouTube channel on its Web site.
The strange thing is that when WTNQ called the AP, the AP itself seemed baffled to learn an AP YouTube channel existed. Worse still, the AP didn't seem to understand that anyone could grab AP content from YouTube and embed it on their own Web site or blog. This is according to WTNQ employee, Frank Strovel, who asked the AP why they would supply YouTube embed codes if they didn't want anyone to use their content. Confused by this question, the AP responded by saying it would "look into the YouTube issue" and get back to him.
The story became public yesterday after Strovel sent out two messages on Twitter about the AP's perplexing behavior. "I was on the phone arguing w/ AP today," reads one of Strovel's posts. "We were embedding their YouTube vids on our station's site. We're an AP affiliate. They asked us to taken [sic] them down. I asked, "Why do you have a YouTube page w/ embed codes for websites?"
In an interview with Christian Grantham, a Tennessee-based news and new media producer, Strovel said that despite the fact that WTNQ was an AP affiliate, the AP still requires the radio station to have a special license for using video content. WTNQ has since withdrawn AP video from its Web site.
UPDATE : Since this blog first went live the Associated Press has sent PC World a statement regarding the matter:
There was a misunderstanding of YouTube usage when the Tennessee radio station was contacted by the Associated Press regarding the AP's more extensive online video services. No cease and desist letter was drafted or sent by AP to the station at any time. The AP was trying to offer the station a superior service for their needs. - AP
The WTNQ affair seems to be part of the AP's latest battle against unlicensed use of its content. The AP claims that Web sites who are using unlicensed content are contributing to the news industry's dwindling profitability.
Technological incompetence, it seems to me, may also be a factor. A quick glance at YouTube's help center shows exactly how you can turn off embed codes to keep your videos out of other people's hands. Something the AP clearly could have done. And in case the AP has any questions about legality perhaps they should look at section 6, paragraph C of YouTube's Terms of Service. By posting video on YouTube you allow users "to use, reproduce, distribute, display, and perform such User Submissions as permitted through the functionality of the Web site." In other words, turn off the embed codes and people can't use your content without your consent. So to all you content producers out there: if you want to control your content, you have to control the social media tools you make available to the public. As of 9:40 AM April 9, 2009 embed codes were still available on videos from the AP's YouTube channel.
Here's the interview between Strovel and Grantham:
Connect with Ian Paul on Twitter @ianpaul.