Tue - 16.01.2018

Aggregation aggravation: AP files suit against Meltwater News

Aggregation aggravation: AP files suit against Meltwater News

Yesterday the Associated Press filed a lawsuit in the Southern district of New York against Oslo-based Meltwater News for copyright infringement. The AP complains that the Norwegian company sells articles, which are produced and owned by the AP, to paying customers without a license. The news wire wants an injunction against Meltwater as well as financial compensation.

Laura Malone, AP acting general council, is quoted in the AP's press release about the suit: "Meltwater earns substantial fees for redistributing premium news content, while bearing none of the costs associated with creating that content."

The AP also complains that, because Meltwater only pays to distribute, but not to create journalism, it can afford to undercut the AP's rates. The news agency has already lost clients to Meltwater including the US department of Homeland Security and fees from Lexis Nexis and Factiva.

What's more, the AP complains that Meltwater shares "lengthier" and "more systematic" extracts from AP news articles than other aggregators, without adding its own editorial commentary. The AP accuses Meltwater of holding onto a "vast archive of AP articles", a high proportion of which are no longer publically available on the internet.

The AP is also filing against Meltwater on the grounds of "hot news" misappropriation, i.e. sharing the APs scoops. The idea of "hot news" dates back to a 1918 ruling by the US Supreme Court, but Jeff Roberts at paidContent notes that it is not certain whether it will still apply.

Roberts states that despite the fact that in 2010 a judge in New York ruled against a news aggregator on the basis of "hot news" misappropriation, the ruling was later overturned. According to Roberts, this later ruling has created "complicated hurdles that a publisher must overcome before they can claim to own hot news", which no one yet has been able to meet.

Whatever the outcome in the US, the Meltwater has just met another challenge in the UK, where the Copyright Tribunal ruled yesterday that businesses which "systematically" distribute links for a fee must get a Newspaper Licensing Association license.

Althought the ruling also forced the NLA to reduce its proposed fees by 90%, Meltwater President and CEO Jorn Lyseggen wrote in a blog post yesterday that the UK "has become a hostile environment for Internet users and Internet businesses."

But according to Wendy Davis in Media Post, Meltwater has stated that's its "confident" of its ground back in the US. "Meltwater respects copyright and operates a complementary service that directs users to publisher websites, just like any search engine," the company states.

The AP stresses in its press release that its lawsuit against Meltwater is "not a general attack on news aggregators". Laura Malone states that "Meltwater is not a typical news aggregator", but a "closed system", which charges users for AP content without a license and is "not a means of expanding public access".

However, Jeff Roberts at paidContent puts the AP's suit against Meltwater in the context of news copyright owners increasingly struggling with aggregation sites, which they perceive as "free riding" on their content.

Media Post points out that the AP accuses Meltwater of "taking subscriptions, licensing revenue and advertising dollars away from traditional news organizations and wire services, leaving the news content providers unable to continue bearing their high costs of creating content." According to Davis, this could make the AP's complaint "seem applicable to other aggregators".

Mathew Ingram at GigaOm sees the suit as evidence that "the AP is determined to fight rather than adapt" to the new media landscape. He writes that, in his view, the AP's "argument about excerpting and free-riding could just as easily apply to any site or service that bundles headlines and links -- or potentially even to sites like The Huffington Post."

Mike Butcher at TechCrunch notes that, while the UK judgement won't affect individuals sharing links "there are a lot of 'systematic' news apps out there which may well find they fall within the bounds of this new ruling".

Sources: AP, Jorn Lyseggen, Media Post, GigaOm, TechCrunch


Hannah Vinter


2012-02-15 15:02

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