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The Rise of the News Aggregator: Legal Implications and Best Practices

Kimberley Isbell

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); Berkman Center for Internet & Society

August 30, 2010

Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2010-10

During the past decade, the Internet has become an important news source for the majority of Americans. According to a study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, as of January 2010, nearly 61% of Americans got at least some of their news online in a typical day. This increased reliance on the Internet as a source of news has coincided with declining profits in the traditional media and the shuttering of newsrooms in communities across the country. Some commentators look at this confluence of events and assert that, in this case, correlation equals causation – the Internet is harming the news business.

One explanation for the decline of the traditional media that some, including News Corporation owner Rupert Murdoch and Associated Press Chairman Dean Singleton, have seized upon is the rise of the news aggregator. According to this theory, news aggregators from Google News to The Huffington Post are free-riding, reselling and profiting from the factual information gathered by traditional media organizations at great cost. Murdoch has gone so far as to call Google’s aggregation and display of newspaper headlines and ledes “theft.” As the traditional media are quick to point out, the legality of a business model built around the monetization of third-party content isn’t merely an academic question – it’s big business. Revenues generated from online advertising totaled $23.4 billion in 2008 alone.

But for all of the heated rhetoric blaming news aggregators for the decline of journalism, many are still left asking the question: are news aggregators violating current law?

This white paper attempts to answer that question by examining the hot news misappropriation and copyright infringement claims that are often asserted against aggregators, and to provide news aggregators with some "best practices" for making use of third-party content.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 30

Keywords: news, Internet, web, publishing, aggregators, journalism, journalists, cyberlaw, news, newspapers

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Date posted: September 3, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Isbell, Kimberley, The Rise of the News Aggregator: Legal Implications and Best Practices (August 30, 2010). Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2010-10. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1670339 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1670339

Contact Information

Kimberley Isbell (Contact Author)
American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) ( email )
2318 Mill Road
Suite 800
Alexandria, VA 22314
United States
Berkman Center for Internet & Society ( email )
1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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