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AP wins suit against news aggregator

Meltwater service poaches articles for customers, judge says

By Larry Neumeister

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 21 2013 8:16 p.m. MDT

NEW YORK — A company that relays excerpts of Internet news articles to its customers violates copyright laws, a judge said Thursday in a decision that gave The Associated Press a victory in its attempts to protect its online news content.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote rejected claims by Meltwater U.S. Holdings Inc. and its Meltwater News Service that its use of Web stories plucked from a scan of 162,000 news websites from more than 190 countries is a fair use of copyright-protected material.

"Investigating and writing about newsworthy events occurring around the globe is an expensive undertaking, and enforcement of the copyright laws permits AP to earn the revenue that underwrites that work," Cote wrote in a decision released Thursday. "Permitting Meltwater to take the fruit of AP's labor for its own profit, without compensating AP, injures AP's ability to perform this essential function of democracy."

In a statement, Meltwater said it was disappointed and will appeal. It called the ruling "at odds with a variety of prior decisions that have paved the way for today's Internet."

The judge noted that commercial Internet news clipping services like Meltwater perform an important function for their customers, but that "does not outweigh the strong public interest in the enforcement of the copyright laws or justify allowing Meltwater to free ride on the costly news gathering and coverage work performed by other organizations. Moreover, permitting Meltwater to avoid paying licensing fees gives it an unwarranted advantage over its competitors who do pay licensing fees."

Meltwater is a 12-year-old electronic news clipping service that helps its clients monitor how they are covered in the media. In its lawsuit, the AP alleged that Meltwater News had been pilfering current and past material from the AP and other news providers without paying licensing fees.

The judge rejected Meltwater's claims that it operates like a search engine.

"Meltwater News is an expensive subscription service that markets itself as a news clipping service, not as a publicly available tool to improve access to content across the Internet," she said. "Instead of driving subscribers to third-party websites, Meltwater News acts as a substitute for news sites operated or licensed by AP."

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