A group of newspapers, including The New York Times, has lent its support to The Associated Press in a lawsuit against Meltwater, a company that scans news from around the world, and helps businesses track keywords and topics of interest. The service reportedly reproduces headlines and story snippets for clients, along with links to the actual stories - pretty much like a search engine.
The TImes filed a brief with the court, calling Meltwater a "free-rider," which engages in the "wholesale copying and redistribution" of its news reports.The brief is also endorsed by other publishers including Gannett and McClatchy (via PaidContent).
As described on its site, Meltwater offers a product that tracks keywords, phrases, and topics in over 192,000 sources from over 190 countries and 100 languages, and monitors these sources consistently throughout the day. It searches an unlimited amount of keywords throughout the publications, and lets customers receieve daily reports at the timing and frequency of their choosing, "collated into easily digested categories," as the company describes it.
Interestingly, the brief paints Google News in a positive light, at least in comparison to Meltwater. The publishers claim that the rate of clickthrough is much greater with Google News and similar services than it is for Meltwater.
TechDirt reported on the battle between the AP and Meltwater as far back as last April, saying that if the AP's argument gains traction, it could "effectively outlaw search engines". Mike Masnick shared this statement from Meltwater at the time:
Plaintiff’s claims are barred in whole or in part by the doctrine of copyright misuse. Through this Complaint and through other means, Plaintiff seeks to misuse its limited copyright monopoly to extend its control over the Internet search market more generally, thereby improperly expanding the protections afforded by U.S. copyright law. Among other things, AP has misused its copyright monopoly by demanding that third parties take licenses for search results, which do not require a license under U.S. copyright law, and AP has also formed a consortium (called NewsRight) with the purpose of further misusing its copyright monopoly to extract licensing fees that exceed what the law allows.
We've discussed Newsright in the past.
Meltwater has actually filed a counter-suit against the AP on the grounds of libel, and has the support of the EFF, and as Jeff John Roberts at PaidContent points out, even the Google-backed Computer and Communications Industry Association has backed Meltwater's claim that it's a search engine. He shares the NYT Amicus Brief:
Earlier this month, Meltwater issued a press release saying it was taking the fight to protect Internet users from unintentionally infringing copyright law.