Content Aggregation sites in India: Legal problems ?

There have been quite a few content aggregation sites that have cropped up in the recent past – both in India and US. ixigo.com, Yahoo Farechase, zoomtra for travel, Yahoo Jobsearch, bixee etc for jobs, spoteazy for electronics and there are many others in US in this space. My question is: What are the legality issues w.r.t content aggregation? Can the host websites sue the content aggregator for using their content for “commercial purposes”?

For example: I build a car portal aggregator from carwale.com, carzoo.com, carsalesindia.com etc. When a user searches on my website, he/she is presented results from any of these websites (with a brief summary) and when he/she clicks the link, they are taken to the host website. My revenue stream is sponsored ads. Once I get sufficient traffic, I may also open up the site to take listings directly.

Can carwale.com etc sue me on the basis “I am using their information for commercial purposes” or “I am using copyrighted content” etc – and yes, its written in the terms and conditions of all the content websites that their content cannot be used for commercial use without their explicit approval.

Atleast with travel, jobs the main revenue stream for the host web sites is not ad based (they are getting paid for subscription or when a transaction takes place). So content aggregators may not be perceived as direct competitors. But for free listing providers such as directory services, car listings, yellow pages, real estate websites where their primary revenue stream is also ad-based, content aggregators can be perceived as direct competitors (even though they drive traffic to the host site). CAN the host websites sue content aggregators? What about the “fair use” clauses – can they protect the content aggregators (in India)?

First of all, is this a big issue? How are the current content aggregators (in India) dealing with this issue? And should start-ups be worried about this? And how should they deal with this?

(this article is also published here)

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