AP Sues News Monitoring Service, Meltwater, for Copyright Infringement and "Hot News" Misappropriation

After sparse blogging due to a busy period, time to briefly highlight some of the more interesting legal opinions and cases that crossed my desk in the last couple/few months.

One of the more interesting (at least to me) new cases to watch is the case filed on Valentine's Day by the Associated Press against Meltwater (which, according to its website, offers a media monitoring service) for copyright infringement and "hot news" misappropriation.

In its complaint, the AP alleges that Meltwater employs a "parasitic business model" that involves "routinely copying, verbatim, the heart of AP's and other publishers' stories, and selling that infringing content to its subscribers."

Although, according to the AP, Meltwater characterizes itself as a "modern day commercial clipping service," the AP distinguished Meltwater's practices from other news aggregators:

8.     In contrast to the practice of other news sources and news aggregators who deliver the AP's news reports to the public, Meltwater does not license the content that it delivers to its subscribers.  Google News, Yahoo News, and AOL, for example, have negotiated arrangements with AP to distribute its content.  Further, unlike Google News or other news aggregators that deliver search results to the public for free, Meltwater is a closed commercial business that only provides news excerpts and other services after payment of a substantial annual fee.  Critical to Meltwater's business model is the fact that it incurs no expense to create or license the content it delivers, allowing it to reap substantial subscription fees with minimal expenses while undercutting its competitors--including the AP, and other entities who have paid valuable consideration to AP for licenses to distribute its content.

The AP's complaint also emphasized that its lawsuit was "not a general attack on news aggregators--many of whom are AP's licensees" nor did it "in any way seek to restrict linking or challenge the right to provide headlines and links to AP articles."

Extensive description of both the AP and its news-gathering process and Meltwater's news services can be found in the AP's 41-page complaint here.

The case caption is Associated Press v. Meltwater U.S. Holdings, Inc., et al., No. 12 Civ. 1087 (S.D.N.Y.), filed February 14, 2012.

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