And you thought their PR on this subject couldn’t get any worse. Must be nice to have an exemption from the same federal fair use statute every other content provider in America is governed by.

The AP’s disharmony with bloggers may have only just begun, as the alternative it’s now offering to being served with takedown notices involves paying an up-front sum for excerpting online articles — as few as five words…

The pricing scale for excerpting AP content begins at $12.50 for 5-25 words and goes as high as $100 for 251 words and up. Nonprofit organizations and educational institutions enjoy a discounted rate.

This scale is likely only a temporary solution, as it raises a truckload of questions. For instance: Suppose a news source holds a press conference, and makes a statement to several attendees including an AP correspondent. Does the citation of that quote count as an excerpt of an AP story? What if Reuters cited the same quote? Or worse, what if Reuters cited the quote differently, and a blogger noticed the difference and excerpted both for comparison? If the AP citation turned out to be in error, would the blogger still owe?

Here’s the link to a tollbooth for a random AP news alert piece. If you want to see it on an actual AP article, click the little copyright house icon near the top here, then click “Republish in a Print Publication or Other Media” followed by “Republish Excerpt Only.” What’s their game here, seriously? They’re turning themselves into laughingstocks and blogosphere pariahs while drumming up business for Reuters and AFP. If they’re trying to establish some sort of bright line beyond which excerpts can’t go without triggering infringement, then why not just lay down some reasonable-ish policy — two paragraphs maximum, say — and wait for someone to violate it, then sue to see if a court will enforce it? (Suspected answer: Because the court probably won’t and the AP knows it.) I’m mystified by their thought process.