If you've read Game of Thrones or watched it on HBO, then
you're probably aware of the general theme, which can be summarized in a single
sentence from the book: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die."
The AP has long held the content throne, but an usurper -
Meltwater - has come to challenge the content king. Meltwater - an aggregator
or a search engine, depending on your kingly allegiance - is a media monitoring
service that displays AP headlines and textual snippets to its users. In a recent copyright
lawsuit, the AP attacked Meltwater's unlicensed display of AP content.
The AP's complaint alleges:
AP bears all of the extensive costs
associated with creating its content, while Meltwater bears only the minimal
costs of distribution in the Internet age, and thus can undercut the AP with
lower subscription rates. ... Meltwater
contributes no creative content and provides no editorial commentary. Its
business serves no independent purpose other than the distribution of news
created by others.
In contrast to the practice of
other news sources and news aggegators who deliver
the AP's news reports to the public, Meltwater does not license the content
that it delivers to its subscribers. Google News, Yahoo News, and AOL, for
example, have negotiated arrangements with AP to distribute its content.
Further, unlike Google News or other news aggregators that deliver search
results to the public for free, Meltwater is a closed commercial business that
only provides news excerpts and other services after payment of a substantial
The AP was founded in
1846, and as the king, it has
invested substantial resources in building a news gathering and distribution
infrastructure. To support its activities,
the AP licenses its content to subscribers and other customers.
In contrast to the AP, Meltwater, which was founded in 2001, employs
neither reporters nor newsgatherers but, rather, helps its customers acquire (insert "search" or "aggregate") third-party
news items published on the Internet. As the usurper, Meltwater lists
The Meltwater Group enters growth markets where new technology enables outsiders to
challenge existing business models and market leaders sleeping in class.
In its April 6th
answer, Meltwater asserted:
... The Associated Press ("AP") challenges one of the
core functions of the Internet. Search engines,
which index online content and provide information about its existence and
location in response to users' search queries, have existed since the earliest
days of the Internet and are essential to its operation. Meltwater offers just
such a search engine, which allows its corporate and institutional customers to
discovery [sic], analyze, and educate others about information in the news
media relevant to their businesses. The search results that Meltwater returns
to its users-headlines of articles, along with a short snippet of text, and a
link to the complete article hosted on the publisher's website-comprise the
same basic information returned by numerous other Internet search services.
Meltwater's news-specific search engine operates fully within the bounds of
U.S. copyright law.
Will Meltwater win or die? Likely, that question hinges on the news aggregator vs. search engine distinction. Defining Meltwater as one or the other could be the difference between the AP's continued sovereignty and Meltwater's liberation of content.
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