AP Beginning New Crack Down on Blog Critics? Shuts Down Blog With Legal Threats

Well, here is what might be a landmark case for the blogosphere, for the Internet, and for the future of our new media, citizen journalism. The AP has just sent a cease and desist letter to Brian C. Ledbetter telling him to stop using their copyrighted images on his website, snappedshot.com.

Snappedshot.com is a site predicated on criticism of photo-journalism. In pursuit of his criticism, Mr. Ledbetter uses photos from across the web that he thinks are doctored or misleading in some way. He then reports his opinion on the bias he sees therein.

Because of this pending legal action, snappedshot.com is now been placed on hiatus until the situation can be cleared up.

So, here is the issue facing us, folks: can we use copyrighted material under the commonly observed fair usage rules without getting hauled into court? After all, Mr. Ledbetter was not making money from his website and he used those photos in order to critique them, not to enrich himself. That would seem to be the very definition of fair use, would it not?

Now it comes down to whether use of the AP's photos in order to do social commentary and criticism is fair enough to be considered fair use?

Worse, if this tactic works, can it not be used by every mainstream news source out there to silence criticism of them?

I say we have the makings of an important ruling on whether we bloggers are free to criticize the MSM without being dragged in to court at the whim of any MSM bigwig.

We'll try to follow this story and see where it goes.