[A2k] Steve Myers: Meltwater says AP’s copyright lawsuit threatens all search engines

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Mon Apr 23 12:26:32 PDT 2012

Meltwater says AP’s copyright lawsuit threatens all search engines

by Steve Myers Published Apr. 23, 2012 12:54 pm

Meltwater has filed a response to the Associated Press’ copyright
lawsuit by saying that it’s simply a sophisticated Internet search
engine, and it hasn’t violated copyright law by indexing AP stories.

In its copyright infringement lawsuit, AP called Meltwater a
”modern-day clipping service.” For $5,000 a year, Meltwater enables
clients to search news stories for mentions of keywords and to receive
email digests that contain portions of relevant news stories. AP
contends Meltwater is undercutting its business by providing its
content without paying AP for it.

Meltwater’s defense is important, as Nieman Journalism Lab’s Justin
Ellis reported, because courts have treated search engines and
clipping services differently in regard to copyright law.

By attacking a search engine, Meltwater contends, AP “challenges one
of the core functions of the Internet.”

    Search engines, which index online content and provide information
about its existence and location in response to users’ search queries,
have existed since the earliest days of the Internet and are essential
to its operation. Meltwater offers just such a search engine, which
allows its corporate and institutional customers to discovery,
analyze, and educate others about information in the news media
relevant to their businesses.

Meltwater says numerous times in its response that it does not provide
users full-text versions of stories. Instead, it provides a headline,
a “short snippet of text” surrounding the search term, and a link to
the original article.

AP claims in its lawsuit that when you add up the headline and those
snippets, Meltwater clients can obtain a significant percentage of a
story, and that with the right series of searches, a client could
obtain the full text of a news story, even if it’s no longer available

AP also claims that clients can use Meltwater’s search-result saving
feature to copy the entire text of stories to their Meltwater account.
Techdirt’s Michael Masnick sizes up that argument:

    Because users can cut and paste AP stories from their original
websites and “save” them in a Meltwater archive, Meltwater is guilty
of violating copyright law. Under that argument, so is any email
program or word processing program.

Meltwater’s legal response echoes what Jens-Petter Glittenberg,
co-founder of the company and director of business development, told
me shortly after the lawsuit was filed. Unlike Google, he said,
Meltwater does not enable users to view cached versions of news
stories. So if the URL to the original article is broken, or the story
has been moved behind a paywall, the reader cannot use Meltwater to
access it.

“We are not in the business of distributing content,” he said. “We are
in the business of selling the knowledge that such content exists.”

Meltwater also claims that the AP’s announcement of the lawsuit has
disrupted its business relationships and scared away prospective

    Current and would-be Meltwater customers have cited AP’s
accusations as a basis for not subscribing to Meltwater News or for
otherwise limiting their relationships with Meltwater.

Manon Anne Ress
Knowledge Ecology International
1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009 USA
manon.ress at keionline.org

More information about the A2k mailing list