AP Files Lawsuit Against Meltwater News

The Associated Press has filed suit against Meltwater News for copyright infringement and “hot news” misappropriation. Using unlicensed verbatim AP content, Meltwater delivers a service to paying customers that competes directly with AP and its customers, the suit claims.

As a subscriber‑only service, Meltwater distributes “Meltwater News,” which 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 keywords selected by its customers. As AP’s complaint alleges, Meltwater also offers its customers the ability to store these excerpts, as well as full-text articles, in a customer archive housed on Meltwater’s server and facilitates the incorporation of AP articles into customer newsletters to be further distributed.

“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.”

Meltwater is a directly competing news service for many AP subscribers, including government agencies that use the AP wire to monitor the news. AP bears all of the extensive costs associated with creating its content, while Meltwater bears only the minimal costs of electronic distribution – thus permitting it to undercut AP with lower subscription rates through its infringing activities.

The UK Court of Appeal and a Norway court have already issued decisions holding that the content delivered by Meltwater requires a license under those countries’ governing copyright laws. But, in contrast to many other news outlets and news aggregators that deliver AP news reports to the public (including Yahoo News, Google News and AOL, which all have licenses for AP content), Meltwater does not.

“Meltwater is not a typical news aggregator,” said Malone. Most notably, Meltwater is a closed system sold only to subscribers for a fee, and not a means of expanding public access.

Further, the complaint 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,” said Malone. “In short, Meltwater earns substantial fees for redistributing premium news content, while bearing none of the costs associated with creating that content.”

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