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

Topics: Aggregator, Web feed, News aggregators Pages: 30 (9291 words) Published: May 28, 2014
Research Publication No. 2010-10
August 30, 2010

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

Kimberly Isbell
Citizen Media Law Project

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Legal Implications and Best Practices

By Kimberley Isbell and the Citizen Media Law Project

Electronic copy available at:

During the past decade, the Internet has

Google’s aggregation and display of

become an important news source for

newspaper headlines and ledes “theft.”3 As

most Americans. According to a study

the traditional media are quick to point out,

conducted by the Pew Internet and

the legality of a business model built

American Life Project, as of January 2010,

around the monetization of third-party

nearly 61% of Americans got at least some content isn’t merely an academic question of their news online in a typical day.1 This

– it’s big business. Revenues generated

increased reliance on the Internet as a

from online advertising totaled $23.4

source of news has coincided with

billion in 2008 alone.4

declining profits in the traditional media

events and assert that, in this case,

Producing journalism is expensive. We  
invest tremendous resources in our project 
from technology to our salaries. To  
aggregate stories is not fair use. To be  
impolite, it is theft.  

correlation equals causation – the Internet


and the shuttering of newsrooms in
communities across the country.2 Some
commentators look at this confluence of

is harming the news business.

—   Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and  
  Chief Executive of News Corporation  
  December 1, 2009 

One explanation for the decline of the
traditional media that some, including

Building a business model around

News Corporation owner Rupert Murdoch

monetizing another website’s content isn’t

and Associated Press Chairman Dean

novel, and methods for doing so have been

Singleton, have seized upon is the rise of

around for almost as long as the Internet

the news aggregator. According to this

has been a commercial platform. Consider

theory, news aggregators from Google

the practice of framing, or superimposing

News to The Huffington Post are free-

ads onto embeded websites.5 There’s also

riding, reselling and profiting from the

in-line linking, or incorporating content

factual information gathered by traditional

from multiple websites into one single

media organizations at great cost. Rupert

third-party site.6 These days, it’s news

Murdoch has gone so far as to call

aggregators that are generating a lot of

Page 1

scrutiny. But are they legal?

news aggregators take many forms. For
this reason, any attempt to talk about the


legal issues surrounding “news
aggregation” is bound to fail, unless we

Before tackling the legal questions

take into consideration the relevant

implicated by news aggregators, we should differences among the various models. first define the term. At its most basic, a

For the purposes of our discussion, we will

news aggregator is a website that takes

group news aggregators into four

information from multiple sources and

categories: Feed Aggregators, Specialty

displays it in a single place.7 While the

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