Leeching isn’t ‘fair use’

A US COURT has ruled that wholesale copying of Associated Press stories by "news aggregator" Meltwater is not permitted under the country's "fair use" rules. Judge Denise Cote, in the Southern District Court of New York, found that "permitting Meltwater to take the fruit of AP's labor for its own profit, without compensating AP, injures AP's ability to perform this essential function of democracy."

The NUJ has of late had to make the case that the appealingly-labelled US legal doctrine of "fair use" is anything but fair. In UK law, the circumstances in which work can be used without asking are covered by the relatively well-defined rules of "fair dealing" - whereas "fair use" is a set of very general principles.

The NUJ - and the Creators' Rights Alliance - quote, for example, a study commisisoned by the British Copyright Council that shows that it can easily cost $1M in legal fees to find out whether a particular use is "fair" in US law. That would suit corporations with deep pockets - such as Google, perchance - that are lobbying for "fair use" in Europe, using the UK and Ireland as beach-heads.

We are inquiring how much Associated Press has had to spend, so far. Meltwater has spoken of appealing.

Meltwater earlier made legal history in the UK when the Court of Appeal ruled that in the case of a commercial news alerting service, at least, headlines and extracts from standfirsts could be protected by copyright. Previously, many had assumed that headlines were too short to be covered by copyright.

Members may be interested in the roundup on the effect of "fair use" on US journalism produced by the Poynter Institute, linked here.

Last modified: 24 Mar 2013 - © 2013 contributors
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