After much ado regarding AP’s interpretation that the use of more than 5 words of a story required payment, the real core of the issue has been identified:

The sticking point for AP seems to be their belief that a headline-and-first-paragraph excerpt is not covered by fair use:

AP’s argument has been that a large percentage of the value of what they deliver is carefully packaged in that content and so the publishing of that information without permission was a copyright violation.

That’s not unreasonable, like their apparent per-word demand was. I’ll demur on whether they’re correct that copying the headline-and-lede is more than permitted by the ‘fair use doctrine.’

The AP’s bigger problem is that facts cannot be copyrighted under the ‘hot news’ doctrine. As described in this thorough piece, while the AP can likely go after companies that copy and rephrase their content wholesale, what do they plan to do if a blogger sees news and then rewords the gist of it for their blog?