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Associated Press Win over Meltwater is the Internet’s Loss

Whenever a business gets too large, it ceases innovating and begins looking for ways to put a boot in the face of anyone who wishes to climb past them up the mountain.

Unfortunately the Associated Press enlisted the help of [tech-illiterate] US District Court Judge Denise Cote and put a boot in the face of content aggregators and successfully sued Meltwater (a San Francisco-based digital clipping service that notifies clients when news references keywords relevant to them).

Here’s just an example of the ripple effect of problems this ruling creates just in Judge Cote’s world:

  • The US District Court for the Southern District of New York publishes a “News and Events” section on its website (with an RSS feed).  Some of the content in that feed violates this ruling.
  • The New York Bar Association (of which, presumably, Judge Cote is a member) also publishes news on a variety of its blogs and other presences which could be in violation of the precedent set by this ruling as they contain “relevant” excerpts of stories by publishers with links.
  • Judge Cote’s alma mater, Columbia University, routinely violates the standard set in the ruling.

…and on and on.

Hilariously, one of the sticking points in the lawsuit is that Meltwater caches news content going back to 2007 that is no longer available online and offers it to customers.  The AP literally doesn’t offer a competing product and wants to someone else for making the information available when they won’t.  It’s the equivalent of a record company suing me for giving a friend a pirated copy of an album that is no longer in print.

It’s the same thing the music industry did over a decade ago when it sued into bankruptcy the file-sharing platforms (and even attempted to sue the manufacturers of MP3 players) that allowed music enthusiasts to trade MP3s – which the industry was not willing to offer despite the overwhelming demand.

This should be instructive for the AP.  After its decade-plus crusade – the music industry won itself widespread hatred, lost its oligopoly, and was entirely unsuccessful at stopping file-sharing.  Even now they’re still in the trenches trying to hold back innovation by attacking their customers and technology companies (see: “six strikes”) and losing billions of revenue in the process.

The Associated Press already sued “Moreover,” “All Headline News,” and even Google before taking on Meltwater.  So far they’ve been satisfied with licensing fees (likely much-needed income as the quality and breadth of their output declines along with the rest of the dinosaurs of traditional media), but what will be next?

For more – I recommend reading the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s response to the ruling:

AP v. Meltwater: Disappointing Ruling for News Search
MARCH 21, 2013 | BY CORYNNE MCSHERRY AND KURT OPSAHL | Electronic Frontier Foundation

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