AP Sues Aggregator Meltwater News

NEW YORK: The Associated Press said it filed suit today against Meltwater News “for copyright infringement and ‘hot news’ misappropriation.”

“Meltwater News is a parasitic distribution service that competes directly with traditional news sources without paying license fees to cover the costs of creating those stories,” said Tom Curley, president and CEO of The Associated Press. “It has a significant negative impact on the ability of AP to continue providing the high-quality news reports on which the public relies.”

AP is saying that Meltwater, which is based in San Francisco, is turning around unlicensed verbatim AP content and selling it to its own clients.The suit was filed Tuesday, Feb. 14, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District, in Manhattan, by the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, representing AP.

Meltwater offers subscription news software that “tracks keywords, phrases and topics in over 162,000 sources from over 190 countries and 100 languages, monitored consistently throughout the day.”

AP says Meltwater is undercutting it because it “bears only the minimal costs of electronic distribution.” AP’s global newsgathering force comprises around 3,700 employees 100 countries. Meltwater’s LinkedIn page (opens in new tab) says it has 850 employees and 20,000 clients.

AP says “Meltwater News… styles itself as a modern-day electronic clipping service with a guarantee of ‘no copyright fees.’ Meltwater delivers to its paying customers substantial verbatim excerpts from AP stories and other published news stories” based on keyword searches. The copyrighted material is also said to be stored on Meltwater servers.

AP says courts in the United Kingdom and Norway have issued decisions holding that Meltwater needs a license to distribute copyrighted content. AP says Meltwater “refuses to license the content that it delivers to its customers,” unlike Yahoo News, Google News and AOL. Meltwater said it’s appealing aspects of the U.K. Court of Appeal’s decision “on web browsing in the U.K. Supreme Court schedule for February 2013.”

AP’s general counsel, Laura Malone, said AP’s lawsuit is not a general attack on news aggregators, nor does it seek to restrict linking.

“Meltwater is not a typical news aggregator,” Malone said, but rather a closed, subscription-only system.

AP’s complaint further alleges that Meltwater provides “lengthier and more systematic excerpts from AP stories than most news aggregators, particularly with regard to AP breaking news articles. Meltwater retains a vast archive of AP articles dating back to at least 2007, many of which are no longer publicly available on the Internet. Meltwater actively facilitates the storage of those and other articles in customer archives on the Meltwater system.”

“Meltwater free-rides on AP’s significant investments in gathering and reporting news,” Malone said. “In short, Meltwater earns substantial fees for redistributing premium news content, while bearing none of the costs associated with creating that content.”
~ Deborah D. McAdams