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If file-sharing is piracy, what about aggregators?

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Pirates can be lovable rogues like Johnny Depp.

They can be a plague on international commerce -- like the ragtag group that held Maersk Alabama skipper Richard Phillips hostage before Navy SEALs dealt them swift justice.

They can also be revered forebearers with a past. Andrew Mellon, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller ran roughshod over opponents back in their day, but their booty now funds libraries, PBS, and hundreds of noble causes.

And then there are the pirates who are much closer to home. Pirate Bay, BitTorrent, YouTube, and most of the peer-to-peer sites on the Web have probably tempted your coworkers, friends, family -- perhaps even you -- with a little intellectual property piracy.

The Age of the Pirate

So what should we make of aggregators?

Topix, Newsvine, and Google all serve as aggregators of news stories from the world's press organizations. Aggregation seems like fair use, although there is plenty of controversy about it. Google has kept its nose clean so far by not selling ads against its Google News aggregation pages. Not so with Topix or Newsvine.

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