But while US courts have agreed that search engines’ use of snippets of copyrighted content is protected, Judge Cote wasn’t convinced that Meltwater was a search engine: she called it a “commercial Internet news clipping service.” And news clipping services don’t get to lift content for free. They pay a licensing fee. This includes newfangled online news aggregators like Google News, which, after fighting out the issue in court, now pays wire services like AP and AFP for their work.

Meltwater is looking to appeal the decision.

Disclosure: CJR has received funding from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to cover intellectual-property issues, but the organization has no influence on the content.


Sarah Laskow is a writer and editor in New York City. Her work has appeared in print and online in Grist, Good, The American Prospect, Salon, The New Republic, and other publications.