Newspapers respond to copyright row

 

The display of links to newspaper articles online is “an infringement of copyright” when it is done “for commercial purposes”, the National Newspapers of Ireland group has said.

The NNI said its members “have never objected to their newspaper content being used by others for personal use”.

But it has reiterated the stance it made in a submission to the Government’s review of copyright law that either a licence or a newspaper’s prior permission is required for the commercial use of newspaper content.

The NNI, which represents 16 national daily, Sunday and weekly newspapers and 25 local and regional newspapers, includes links in its definition of content that is subject to copyright - a claim that has been contested by solicitors.

The Irish Times, which is a member of the NNI, said it supported “the NNI position that copyright over newspaper content should be protected”. But it also said it encouraged linking to its articles.

“We recognise that linking is the lifeblood of the online world and we encourage our digital community to share links as widely as possible. Therefore, The Irish Times does not see links as copyrightable and will not attempt to impose any restrictions on the posting elsewhere on the Internet of mere URLs that refer to its content,” said Hugh Linehan, online editor of The Irish Times.

“We have no problem at all with anybody linking directly to our articles. However, The Irish Times takes issue with automated ‘scraping’, summarisation, and aggregation, of its content,” he said. “All commercial reproduction or republication of The Irish Times’ content is subject to licensing requirements that the Newspaper Licensing Ireland oversees.”

The NNI and The Irish Times have issued statements following widespread criticism of communication that took place last year between the NNI’s subsidiary, Newspaper Licensing Ireland, and the domestic violence charity Women’s Aid, which had linked to newspaper content on its website.

The case was highlighted by Women’s Aid’s solicitor, Simon McGarr, on his blog in a post with the title “2012: The year Irish newspapers tried to destroy the web”.

Mr McGarr wrote that Women’s Aid were told that the cost of displaying one to five links to news articles would cost the organisation €300. The rate increased up to €1,350 for 26-50 links, while the price for more than 50 links was “negotiable”.

Mr McGarr said the NNI had not offered a statutory basis for its assertion that the display of links is a copyright issue. “A link is equivalent to, say, a Dewey Decimal number in a library - it tells you where the book is, but it’s not the book,” Mr McGarr told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

In its response, the NNI said that it was “entirely reasonable” that organisations that “wish to exploit the content generated by newspapers for their own commercial purposes” should seek prior permission.

The NNI’s co-ordinating director, Frank Cullen, said the licensing subsidiary operated two licences - a general licence for the photocopying and scanning of news articles that costs approximately €140 a year, and a republishing licence that covered a range of reproduction activities, including linking.

“If someone wants to set up a website - and Women’s Aid have fallen into this, but it wasn’t designed for them - and they want to post dozens and dozens of newspaper articles and attach extracts or the headlines - that’s what we are talking about.”

The NNI statement said the licensing arm “routinely writes to companies and organisations” to make them aware of the requirement for a licence for photocopying, scanning, reproduction, distribution of articles to clients and the viewing of articles on a website hosted by press cutting agencies.

“Whenever Newspaper Licensing Ireland has required an organisation to take such a licence, the organisation has also engaged, for commercial purposes, in some other ‘copying activity’ in addition to the display of links - for example, where the organisation has reproduced either the text of the article itself or an extract from it alongside the link.”*

A page on the Women’s Aid website lists six of the organisation’s mentions in Irish newspapers in 2010. Some of the links on the page link to ElectricSearch - a clippings service run by Zenark, which claims to be “the UK and Ireland’s leading web intelligence and media monitoring solution”.

The NNI’s steps to assert copyright take place in the context of pan-European efforts by newspaper publishers to lobby their respective governments to introduce laws that would oblige Google and other news aggregators to pay for links to content.

* This article was edited on Friday, January 25th and Friday, June 14th, 2013.

Correction: Simon McGarr/Women’s Aid

In its original form this article included a statement to the effect that it was untrue that NLI Ltd had made any demand of money from Women’s Aid.
The Irish Times accepts that this was not accurate and wishes to apologise for any misunderstanding caused.

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