The latest battle over online content involves not music or movies, but the news. On February 14, 2012, the Associated Press filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against Meltwater, an online news monitoring service, alleging copyright infringement and “hot news” misappropriation, an incredibly narrow doctrine that had previously seen something of a revival in in New York.  In its complaint, the AP emphasizes the amount of resources it expends in its investigative journalism and alleges that Meltwater, which it views as a competing service, reaps the benefits of AP’s efforts without the attenuated expenses.  The complaint distinguishes Meltwater’s service from Google News, Yahoo News, AOL and other freely available news aggregators by indicating that Meltwater’s users pay a fee for access to a closed service, and highlighting that Google News and others have obtained licenses from the AP, whereas Meltwater has not.

According to the complaint, Meltwater scours the web for content which it then stores in order to enable a search function for its subscribers. Meltwater subscribers are also able to archive content.  The complaint describes Meltwater’s conduct as “routinely copying verbatim the heart of the AP’s and other publishers’ news stories.”  The allegations take issue with Meltwater’s storing of content for the purpose of enabling the search function, the excerpts displayed by the service, and the ability for subscribers to store excerpts and full articles and forward them on, sometimes without a link to the original news source.  With regard to the excerpts, the complaint alleges that Meltwater has copied excerpts of a substantial nature to the degree that customers will not click through links to the original source. The complaint also takes issue with the translation feature of the site, which translates full articles.  Notably, the complaint clearly states what the AP is not seeking.  It states it is not seeking to restrict others from linking to its articles or providing news headlines.

Meltwater has responded to the complaint with a news release likening its service to that of a search engine and stating that, “US courts hav[e] repeatedly held that Internet search is legal.”

The case is Associated Press v. Meltwater U.S. Holdings, Inc., et. al., case number 1:12-cv-01087, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.