Are you paying attention to The Associated Press v. Moreover Technologies, Inc. et al? I heard about it while interviewing the founder of a different company for the Guide to Social Media Analysis, my reference to the companies who monitor and measure social media. He was telling me that his company provides summaries and links back to original sources, in order to avoid the risk of copyright infringement issues. The interesting thing is, I had just heard from another company that they selected a data vendor specifically because of the full text clips in their feed.
So, what's the deal with aggregating media content for a commercial service? Does blog aggregation with full content feeds violate copyright? Is it a question of fair use (US—fair dealing elsewhere), or is there more to consider? I asked Eric Goldman, Assistant Professor and Academic Director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law, who started by telling me, "the law in the area is complicated, multi-faceted and unclear."
Great. So much for wrapping things up with a tidy stroll through fair use considerations.
In addition to copyright, Goldman suggested these areas of potential concern (the usual disclaimers apply: this is not legal advice; check with your own lawyers):
- Common law trespass to chattels
- Computer Fraud & Abuse Act
- State computer crime laws
Still with me?
So far, this is just the US perspective on an inherently international activity. My blog post was threatening to turn into a book, which I'm not even qualified to write (but I might want to read). So, let's go back to the current case that opened the topic, AP v. Moreover, or the Case of the Purloined Press. For extra credit, read the complaint (PDF).
This case isn't about social media monitoring; it's about redistributing traditional media content without a license. But it has similarities to other forms of media monitoring, in that a company is aggregating content for commercial purposes. How can a company avoid trouble while providing commercial content aggregation, and how does this translate to social media content with its millions of independent sources?
IMHO, IANAL, YMMV. I took an excellent course on communications law in grad school, and I enjoy a good conversation about policy, but I'm not a lawyer. You'd be an idiot to take anything I write or say as legal advice.