THE END OF THE BLOGOSPHERE?….Agence France Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million for aggregating and extracting headlines and excerpts from AFP stories on its Google News service. Google claims its use of AFP material is protected by fair use laws; AFP denies it.

What if AFP wins? Over at CJR, Paul McLeary takes a look at whether an adverse ruling would affect bloggers who also excerpt and link to mainstream media material on a regular basis.

And in related news, Mike Krempasky has read through an early draft of an FEC rule aimed at regulating the way internet sites, including blogs, can promote political candidates. It was even worse than he expected, he says. The version that got adopted yesterday is a bit better, but we dodged a bullet.

I’m going to hold fire on the FEC draft until I learn a little more about it. The previous flap over Bradley Smith’s remarks was pretty clearly blown out of proportion, and it’s also not clear to me that the FEC rules are as bad as Mike thinks they are. What’s more, although McCain-Feingold restrictions on free speech are indeed problematic, they’ve been upheld by the Supreme Court. Given that, it’s never been clear to me why internet sites shouldn’t be regulated the same way as any other medium.

Still, these are clearly rumblings on the horizon, and they have at least the potential to stifle the free flowing conversation the blogosphere is famous for. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

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