Meltwater: Aggregator or Search Engine?

One strategy that more websites are turning to is content curation and aggregation; it is no longer enough to have great content. You have to be able to point your visitors to other great content, the source of all knowledge, so to speak. Meltwater News is a service that “delivers real-time search results with the industry’s most robust online media monitoring database.” They track over 160,000 news sources all over the world. The media service is also being sued by the AP (Associated Press) for copyright violations; this after being ruled against in the UK. At issue is whether Meltwater is acting as an aggregator or a search engine.

A search engine like Google must copy publishers’ content verbatim as part of their results; courts in the US, UK, and elsewhere have found that this meets “Fair Use” tests, meaning it does not infringe on the publishers’ copyrights. And in fact, it is helpful because otherwise searchers could not find this content. The search engine provides a blurb or snippet of information and a link to the licensed site.

According to the AP, though, what Meltwater is doing is different because, unlike search engines or free aggregators or aggregators that are licensees of the AP, they charge a fee. Users can only access these results by paying, and the AP contends, it “provides a fully integrated closed system that is designed to supplant the need for an AP subscription, not to drive traffic to legitimately licensed sites.” In other words, the AP is arguing that Meltwater diverts traffic to its own paid sites.

In the UK, the Copyright Tribunal ruled that British businesses need to hold a license from the NLA (Newspaper Licensing Association) if they are going to use aggregators, including Google News and Alerts. Meltwater was found to violate copyright, and it now needs to have a £150 license in order to provide this content to customers.

It is not clear yet how this will impact SEO, especially for those companies who use Google Alerts or News to monitor links, or how far down the line licensing requirements will go.

Leave a Comment