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AP Sues Meltwater News Aggregator For Unlicensed Content Use

The Associated Press says it’s filed a lawsuit today against news aggregator Meltwater News in U.S. District Court. The suit claims that Norway-based Meltwater — a paid electronic clipping service that monitors and delivers news stories on keyword-specific topics to its paying customers — spreads original AP content verbatim without paying licensing fees. Those fees help support the AP’s news gathering, but also add costs that Meltwater doesn’t incur, which allows it to offer its service cheaper than the AP, thereby undercutting and competing directly against the news service.

AP President and CEO Tom Curley described the organization as a “parasitic distribution service” in a statement. He says the service “competes directly with traditional news sources without paying license fees to cover the costs of creating those stories. It has a significant negative impact on the ability of AP to continue providing the high-quality news reports on which the public relies.”

From their statement:

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.

In the AP’s statement, General Counsel Laura Malone made a point to note the AP isn’t anti-aggregator, but rather it opposes the fact that Meltwater both undercuts their service and also “refuses to license the content that it delivers to its customers.” From Malone: AP’s lawsuit is not a general attack on news aggregators. … Nor does AP in any way seek to restrict linking or challenge the right to provide headlines and links to AP articles. … Meltwater is a closed system sold only to subscribers for a fee, and not a means of expanding public access.

Meltwater hasn’t publicly commented on today’s suit. Interestingly, the latest post on its company blog today is commentary about the outcome of a lawsuit in the UK over newspaper content licensing fees. Read their post: The implication of today’s verdict in The UK Copyright Tribunal. Also check out their press release on that legal tussle.

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