NEW YORK The Newspaper Association of America, the New York Times (NYT) and several other newspaper companies have filed papers in support of a lawsuit filed by The Associated Press against Meltwater, a company that monitors the media for corporate customers.
The AP sued Meltwater U.S. Holdings and its Meltwater News Service in U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Manhattan last February, alleging that the company copies AP content and sells it to clients without paying AP licensing fees.
The Times and other companies, including USA Today publisher Gannett (GCI) The McClatchy (MNI) and Advance Publications said in court papers filed late Monday that their businesses would be jeopardized if Meltwater's activities were allowed to continue. The publishers argue that their websites and other digital businesses that generate revenue through advertising, subscriptions and licensing fees are threatened if other companies can distribute their content without paying licensing fees.
"None of these revenue streams can be sustained if news organizations are unable to protect their news reports from the wholesale copying and redistribution by free-riders like Meltwater," the filing said.
Also joining in the friend-of-the-court brief was BurrellesLuce, a Meltwater competitor that says it is at a disadvantage because it pays to license content that Meltwater takes for free.
Meltwater did not immediately have a comment.
Meltwater was founded in 2001 in Oslo, Norway. According to the company's website, it has more than 800 employees working in 55 offices around the world. The company says it monitors more than 162,000 online publications for its clients. Its clipping service tracks media coverage of products and other activities. Meltwater uses the information to help clients analyze the effectiveness of marketing and public relations campaigns.
In the filing, the AP's supporters argued that Meltwater's service differs from a search engine. The distinction could be important because search engines have legal protection from paying licensing fees if they merely point users to a location where information can be found. Meltwater tailors its clipping service to specific clients and copies the headline and lead paragraph of stories, the filing said. Meltwater includes more content if the client requests it.
The AP's supporters also said Meltwater's service does not amount to "fair use" because it copies material without alteration, does not aid the public good and damages the market for copyrighted work.
Laura Malone, acting general counsel for the AP, said the news cooperative welcomed the support from the newspaper companies.
"It demonstrates that the media community stands together in recognizing that Meltwater's business of appropriating and selling media content cannot be excused as fair use and instead is infringing," she said.
Founded in 1846, The Associated Press is a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.