Piracy Fight Comes to Wire Services: AP Sues ‘Parasitic’ Meltwater News

The Associated Press filed a suit in a New York court against news aggregator Meltwater, which gets a split decision in a ruling on similar U.K. case Tuesday

While the film industry and music industry pursue their own fight against piracy, the newspaper industry is upping the ante against what it sees as digital pirates.

The Associated Press filed suit Tuesday against news aggregator Meltwater News, requesting the New York court force Meltwater to both cease its infringing actions and award the AP damages.

AP CEO Tom Curley called the company a “parasitic distribution service" in a statement, urging the court to protect legacy news organizations.

“Meltwater has built its business on the willful exploitation and copying of the AP’s and other publishers’ news articles for profit,” the suit alleges.

Meltwater is an electronic service that clips various news articles and offers them to paying subscribers who want to monitor news coverage of their industries and themselves.

Also Read: New York Times, Washington Post, AP Found NewsRight

In the AP’s mind, not only is Meltwater illegally taking and profiting from its content, but Meltwater does not incur the costs of running a news organization.

“AP bears all of the extensive costs associated with creating its content while Meltwater bears only the minimal costs of distribution in the Internet age, and thus can undercut the AP with lower subscription rates.”

Meltwater’s CEO Jorn Lyseggen issued the following statement in response: "This is the first we have heard of the AP's concerns and we are surprised. From their press release, it appears that the AP misunderstands how our service works in many key respects. It is unfortunate that the AP did not seek to discuss this with us prior to taking this wholly unnecessary step. We invite the AP to enter a dialogue so that we can better understand their concerns."

The AP has licensing deals with the likes of Google, Yahoo and AOL. It also helped develop a licensing service of its own, initially called the News Licensing Service.

It has since spun off the organization, which relaunched in January as NewsRight. The AP, the New York Times and others are founding members.

NewsRight is intended to strike licensing deals with organizations that want to disseminate AP content, providing them with all of the articles they need while ensuring a monetary benefit for the content creators.

This suit suggests that Meltwater’s infringements place such a partnership out of reach.

“Legal developments on both sides of the Atlantic today, one a lawsuit by the Associated Press in the United States and the other the Copyright Tribunal's interim decision in the United Kingdom, underscore the value of original news reporting globally in the digital age and the need for a convenient way to license content from multiple news sources,” NewsRight CEO David Westin said in a statement.

As Westin mentions, a U.K. court made a separate ruling on Meltwater Tuesday — a case involving the U.K.’s Newspaper Licensing Association.

The NLA is a for-profit company of U.K. newspapers that licenses their content (kind of like NewsRight).

Meltwater brought suit against them in 2010 because it felt its licensing rules were unreasonable.

The court offered a mixed ruling, upholding the NLA’s rules but reducing the price.

Lyseggen wrote on his blog that  “UK copyright law is sadly out of sync with today’s society and renders the innocent acts of millions of UK citizens illegal.”

He argued that the “Internet as we know it is under threat.”

Both of these cases highlight the continued efforts by newspapers and other creative enterprises to regulate content on the Internet.

Whether it is the music industry and film industry fighting piracy, or news organizations licensing their articles, everyone is looking for a way to limit the unfettered spread of valuable content. And monetize it, of course.

Whether this is the best method of conducting that fight will be determined in the courts.