Search engines and fair use suffered a legal blow this week, as a judge sided with the Associated Press in its ongoing case against Meltwater, a service that scans news from around the world, and helps businesses track keywords and topics of interest.
Essentially, Meltwater’s service displays content with links and snippets in a similar format to Google News and other search engines and aggregators, which is why this case could have broader industry significance.
Last month, we saw newspapers like The New York Times, Gannet and McClatchy get on board with the AP.
Mike Masnick at TechDirt, who shares the court document, highlights a section where the court says:
“Next, Meltwater argues that the extent of its copying is justified because its purpose is to serve as a search engine. But, Meltwater has failed to show that it takes only that amount of material from AP’s articles that is necessary for it to function as a search engine. Indeed, the evidence is compellingly to the contrary.”
Masnick writes that the court “seems to think it knows how to run a search engine,” adding, “I’m curious. What is ‘the amount necessary to function as a search engine?’ One might reasonably suggest that a search engine would be wise to index everything. Yet the court here seems to be suggesting otherwise. I’m curious how many search engines the judge has built.”
“Basically, Meltwater points out that what it does is no different than a search engine, and the court says (without much basis) that it doesn’t think Meltwater really is a search engine, and thus these defenses don’t apply,” he adds. “But this is extremely troubling for actual search engines, because you can take each of the pieces out and then try to apply them to a basic search engine, and you’ll find that if this ruling stands, it makes being a search engine much more difficult as well.”
Meltwater will of course be appealing the judge’s decision. AFP quotes CEO Jorn Lyseggen as saying, “We’re disappointed by the court’s decision and we strongly disagree with it. We’re considering all of our options, but we look forward to having this decision reviewed by the Court of Appeals, which we are confident will see the case in a different way.”