AP Sues VeriSign For Copyright Infringement; Mostly Pointless
from the what's-going-on-here? dept
The Associated Press is apparently suing VeriSign’s Moreover for copyright infringement,
though the details are woefully unclear (even in the AP version of the article). It’s unclear if the complaint is over the fact that Moreover scrapes and links people to AP content, or if there’s something else going on (Update below). If it is just that Moreover is pointing people to AP content, then this is quite ridiculous — but most likely driven by the AP’s ability to get Google to pay up for the same thing. The article hints that there may be a bigger problem with Moreover providing the full text of the content, but details are lacking. If it is true that Moreover provides the full text — then they probably are violating the copyright. However, if that content is simply stored away for indexing purposes, and people are sent to legitimate AP sources, then it’s hard to see how this is a copyright violation at all. If anything, it’s the opposite — pointing more people to AP content. The AP is also complaining that Moreover lists the AP as a news source on its site — but that’s just a petty complaint from the AP. Listing out news sources hardly is a violation of trademark. Hell, the AP is a “news source” for the content we write here on Techdirt all the time — and there’s nothing wrong with saying so. All in all, unless more details prove otherwise, this sounds like the AP continuing to struggle with the changing marketplace it’s facing, and lashing out at one of the companies that helps deliver more traffic to AP content for not paying the AP for the privilege of promoting AP content.
Update: Rafat Ali from PaidContent stopped by in the comments to point to the full lawsuit documents, posted on his site. From there, it appears that the AP’s lawsuit is mostly ridiculous, with just a little tiny bit of reasonable thrown in. Most of the claims are about the fact that Moreover is spidering and scraping AP news feeds, and providing both free and paid subscribers headlines and the opening lede. However, it’s pretty difficult for the AP to make a copyright claim here, since those links are almost definitely fair use, especially since they point people to legitimate AP licensees. There’s a little gray area where Moreover indexes and caches the articles on its own servers — but Google has been doing that for years without much of a problem — and if the AP is really upset about it, there’s always the old robots.txt solution. The one area where the AP may have a claim (though, the evidence does not seem clear from the exhibits) is in saying that there are times when Moreover will show subscribers a full AP article hosted on its own servers, rather than passing them through to a licensee. If true, then that would likely be copyright infringement — though the “damages” would be minimal, if anything. Finally, the claim that this is an AP trademark infringement by listing the AP as a news source seems laughable. All in all, the original assessment stands: this is the AP unable to adapt and lashing out at those who are helping to promote their content.