Web link claim for airing in Oireachtas


A claim that links to newspaper articles online should be subject to copyright law is to be raised at the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, committee member Seán Kenny has said.

A submission by the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) to the Government’s review of copyright law includes web links in its definition of content that the NNI says should require either prior permission or a licence.

Describing the NNI assertion as “absurd” and as a move that could damage Ireland’s digital smart economy, Mr Kenny said he would be asking the industry group to explain its position.

The controversy arose after solicitor for Women’s Aid charity, Simon McGarr, revealed in a blog post that last year his client had received communication from NNI subsidiary Newspaper Licensing Ireland outlining the cost of displaying links to news articles.

A sliding scale put the cost of publishing one to five links at €300, the cost of publishing six to ten links was put at €500, the cost of eleven to fifteen links is €700 while the cost of 50 plus links is “negotiable”.

Mr Kenny said newspapers need to take “a more imaginative approach in the sector’s approach to challenges posed by the burgeoning online media sector.”

"The world wide web, since its inception 20 years ago has revolved around one website linking to another via what is known as "hypertext". It is the very lifeblood of the World Wide Web and for the NNI to claim that this could form a breach of copyright is nothing short of absurd, and bordering on the outrageous. It is also my view that this assertion has absolutely no basis in law”, he said.

Mr Kenny said he was “most unhappy” to hear the claim that any commercial entity linking to an NNI member’s website would be in breach of copyright “because of a mere website link”.

He asked whether companies such as boards.ie should be liable for copyright breaches if members post links.

“What if I, as an elected representative, make a link to a newspaper website on my own website as part of my work - am I liable?”

The NNI said yesterday it was “entirely reasonable” that companies who wish to use content generated by newspapers for their own commercial purposes should seek prior permission.

Hugh Linehan, online editor of The Irish Times, said yesterday that The Irish Times, which is a member of the NNI, “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”.