In a summary judgment decision today, Judge Cote ruled that the internet media monitoring service Meltwater infringed the Associated Press’s copyrights by “crawling” the internet for news excerpts to send subscribers. Judge Cote rejected Meltwater’s argument that its service was “fair use”:

Meltwater uses its computer programs to automatically capture and republish designated segments of text from news articles, without adding any commentary or insight in its News Reports. Meltwater copies AP content in order to make money directly from the undiluted use of the copyrighted material; this is the central feature of its business model and not an incidental consequence of the use to which it puts the copyrighted material. Thus, it is not surprising that Meltwater’s own marketing materials convey an intent to serve as a substitute for AP’s news service. Meltwater describes its Meltwater News products as “News at a glance” and “News brought to you.” They trumpet that “Meltwater News continuously tracks news sources, updating its database continuously throughout the day so searches return fresh, relevant content,” and advertise that “your news is delivered in easy to read morning and/or afternoon reports.” Nor is Meltwater’s taking of copyrighted material more defensible because its business relates to news reporting and research –- two of the purposes of the fair use doctrine captured in the statute’s preamble. The news reporting and research upon which Meltwater relies was not done by Meltwater but by AP; the copyrighted material that Meltwater has taken is the news reporting and research that AP labored to create. For this same reason, the examination of the public interest weighs against Meltwater. Paraphrasing James Madison, the world is indebted to the press for triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression. Investigating and writing about newsworthy events occurring around the globe is an expensive undertaking and enforcement of the copyright laws permits AP to earn the revenue that underwrites that work. 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. While commercial Internet news clipping services like Meltwater perform an important function for their clients, the public interest in the existence of such commercial enterprise does not outweigh the strong public interest in the enforcement of the copyright laws or justify allowing Meltwater to free ride on the costly news gathering and coverage work performed by other organizations. Moreover, permitting Meltwater to avoid paying licensing fees gives it an unwarranted advantage over its competitors who do pay licensing fees