Meltwater Response To Associated Press Lawsuit: AP Is Misusing Copyright Law
from the indeed,-they-are dept
We were somewhat surprised by the Associated Press’ decision to sue news search engine Meltwater, because we couldn’t see how the AP — even with its absurdist interpretation of copyright law — had any case. Meltwater works with companies to help them track news about themselves. While it’s similar to a clipping service, it doesn’t actually “clip” the news. Instead, just like Google News or other news search engines, it provides a headline, a snippet and a link to the full story. In other words, if the AP’s argument gains traction, the AP may have effectively outlawed search engines. That’s ridiculous. Among the AP’s silly claims in the lawsuit (and there are many), is one that says 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.
Either way, Meltwater has hit back with a response (embedded below) that pushes back on all of these points, explains pretty clearly how it doesn’t actually infringe… and also claims that the AP’s arguments amount to “copyright misuse”:
Plaintiff’s claims are barred in whole or in part by the doctrine of copyright misuse. Through this Complaint and through other means, Plaintiff seeks to misuse its limited copyright monopoly to extend its control over the Internet search market more generally, thereby improperly expanding the protections afforded by U.S. copyright law. Among other things, AP has misused its copyright monopoly by demanding that third parties take licenses for search results, which do not require a license under U.S. copyright law, and AP has also formed a consortium (called NewsRight) with the purpose of further misusing its copyright monopoly to extract licensing fees that exceed what the law allows.
Meltwater also brings up multiple other defenses, including a bunch of defenses highlighting how the AP failed to bring its lawsuit in a timely manner. They also point out that since the AP posts these articles freely on the web, there’s an implied license that you can link to it and point people to the content.
There is, of course, also the AP’s attempt to bring back the bogus “hot news” doctrine, which some companies like the AP have been trying to revive after it was considered a completely dead concept. So far, the courts aren’t buying these hot news claims, and hopefully they get rejected here as well. Meltwater attacks the hot news claims head on with two interesting arguments. First, it claims that Section 230 protects it from any hot news claim. That’s an interesting argument, though I’m not sure it really applies here. Separately, however, they argue (correctly, in my view) that hot news doesn’t exist any more, effectively, because it’s really a form of a copyright claim, and all state copyright claims (hot news is a state law issue) are preempted by federal copyright law. It would be nice to have a court officially kill off hot news as a concept, so here’s a chance for that to happen.
Honestly, I still can’t figure out what the AP thinks its doing here, other than trying to shake money out of a search engine because its execs remain too clueless on how to run the organization in this modern era.