The Associated Press just won a major victory in an effort to sue a Scandinavian web firm that scraped (cut and pasted) headlines and some story sentences and then charged its customers for them.
In a decision announced this week in New York City, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said the Norwegian web aggregator, Meltwater, failed to convince the court that what it was doing was “fair use,” a legal term allowed in some cases without compensating the source of information.
The company Meltwater scours websites, including the AP and numerous newspapers. It then produces news summaries paid for by its clients, who include companies and governments.
As stated in Friday's paidcontent.org story on the ruling, courts use a four-part test that that tries to define fair use. Famous examples of fair use include a parody rap song of “Pretty Woman” and Google’s display of thumb-size pictures in its image search. In the AP case, however, Meltwater’s fair use defense failed.
The New York District Court rejected Meltwater's claim, which was based on asserting its “results” were equal to those in a search engine.
Judge Cote instead ruled Meltwater is more like a business rival to AP: “Instead of driving subscribers to third-party websites, Meltwater News acts as a substitute for news sites operated or licensed by AP.”
Meltwater officials said it would appeal the ruling. It's also not clear how much in damages AP will attempt to collect. The New York Times also offered a legal brief on the side of the Associated Press.
The PaidContent summary noted: “The judgment also points to the amount of content that Meltwater replicated. Whereas fair use allows anyone to reproduce a headline and snippets, Cote suggested Meltwater took 'the heart' of the copyrighted work by also reproducing the 'lede' and other sentences.”