Valentine’s Day turned out to be a bittersweet one for Meltwater. The monitoring business (in conjunction with the PRCA) has been embroiled in a costly legal battle with the UK’s Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA), over the latter body’s plans to charge expensive licences for news aggregation users.
The Meltwater/PRCA combination has professed itself happy with yesterday’s Copyright Tribunal verdict, which will see the cost of those licences slashed by around 90 percent for “business users” of news aggregation services. (It should also be noted, meanwhile, that the NLA is also claiming the decision as a victory).
Frustratingly, though, the wider issue remains unresolved. Indeed, word that the NLA now intends to pursue business users of Google News – nicely covered here by Vikki Chowney – demonstrates the increasingly absurd nature of the issue. The Copyright Tribunal decision may save businesses money (as much as £100m according to Meltwater/PRCA) but it does not settle the most baffling part of the initial High Court decision: that online publishers – in this day and age, no less – can charge “business users” for distributing or clicking links to their content. Much now depends on Meltwater/PRCA’s appeal to the Supreme Court, which will be heard early next year.
As if that wasn’t enough, Meltwater now finds itself fighting on another front, after news broke that AP is bringing a similarly-styled legal action in the US. Techdirt has a good overview of the issues at play here, and shrewdly describes AP’s claim that Meltwater is hurting its business as “ridiculous”. That is an observation which could, equally, be levelled at the organisations represented by the NLA.
In their grim struggle to protect a creaking business model, these companies sometimes appear oblivious to the online realities of how news is now consumed and distributed. Is this not the crux of the matter? If so, then Meltwater is the wrong culprit; no amount of external aggression should obscure the internal changes that the news industry needs to make.