Online links to newspaper articles a copyright issue, says publishing body


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 its 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 subject to copyright.

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

“We recognise linking is the lifeblood of the online world and we encourage our digital community to share links as widely as possible,” said Hugh Linehan, online editor of The Irish Times. “Therefore, The Irish Times does not see links as copyrightable and will not attempt to impose restrictions.” However, The Irish Times takes issue with “scraping”, summarisation and aggregation of its content, Linehan said.


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

The case was highlighted by Women’s Aid’s solicitor Simon McGarr, who said the NNI had not offered a statutory basis for its assertion that the display of links is a copyright issue.

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

“If someone wants to set up a website and wants 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 and distribution of articles 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 links.”

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

The group’s steps to assert copyright take place in the context of pan-European efforts by newspapers to lobby for laws that would oblige Google and other aggregators to pay for links to content.