AP’s suit against a digital news aggregator could open up Pandora’s Box
The Associated Press sued news aggregator Moreover, a Verisign company, claiming that the headline harvester went beyond the bounds of fair use. It is hard to judge from the announcement exactly how Moreover overstepped the bounds of law. But the AP president Tom Curley claims the Verisign-owned company was doing more than mere linkage. "When someone uses our content without our permission, they are free riding on our newsgathering and our reporting of news from around the world," he said.
This is an argument that has been bubbling in Europe for a while, where several news organizations have challenged portals and the way they pull together headlines and top line images and text from a story. That AP brings the argument to these shores is a sign that much more is yet to come. As RSS feeds and hyper-distribution tools send data virtually anywhere, it raises serious questions about fair use on a platform where linkage is fundamental to the eco-system. We in the digital media space like to promote liberal content distribution techniques. Hyper-distribution is the fashionable model of the day. Still, there remains the issue of intellecturl property and news organizations maintaining the revenue they need to support costly reporting infrastructures. In many ways companies like Google, and other aggregators have monetized the information they scrape from other sites more effectively than the sources. At some point, the newspapers, wire services and image libraries will bite back. AP’s law suite may help define the line of fair use in the digital space for the U.S. market.