Get charged to see your own news coverage? Yes you can

Court rules Newspaper Licensing Agency can charge organisations to see their own coverage.

Bit of a weird one, this. The High Court has ruled that anyone getting clippings of online newspaper articles should pay a licence fee to the Newspaper Licensing Agency - which is owned by eight of the UK's largest newspaper publishers - even if they can only see the headline of the story, the line of text where their company's brand appears and the link to the article.

Clippings service and news aggregator Meltwater News had argued that while it is happy to pay a licensing fee to the NLA itself, its customers should not be considered to be infringing copyright for simply seeing where their company is mentioned in online newspaper clippings.

Newspapers don't have to pay anything to brand owners when they write about them, of course. Which means Nike may have to pay to see where its name is used in newspapers, while newspapers can use Nike's brand for free to help drive readers, web traffic and hence advertising revenues.

But a judgement issued yesterday by Mrs Justice Proudman ruled that end-users who paid aggregator Meltwater News to distribute online newspaper content in the form of a news monitoring service should also obtain a license to do so from the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA).

Meltwater's CEO Jorn Lyseggen told the NS that while he was disappointed by the decision, the firm intends to appeal, and that the main focus should be on a forthcoming Copyright Tribunal decision which will rule on the reasonableness of the NLA's licensing terms for online content.

"This High Court issue is just something that the NLA threw up to get in the way [of the Copyright Tribunal]," said Lyseggen. "It's a disappointing verdict which has dramatic consequences for the UK Internet ecosystem."

As Lyseggen pointed out, the ruling means that in theory users of the Internet should obtain a license from the NLA to view copyrighted material even when it is not protected behind a 'pay-wall'. "A user reading a poem online that is copyright could mean they need to pay a license fee, even though it has been posted online free," said Lyseggen. "There are very serious consequences of this verdict."

David Pugh, managing director of the NLA, welcomed today's ruling. "We hope this ruling will help ensure a fair share of web monitoring revenue for publishers and a fair media monitoring market," he said.

"Creating news content for the web is a substantial investment for publishers - it is therefore only right that they take a share when others are profiting from it. We estimate the total UK market for online news monitoring to be worth around £10 million," said Pugh.

But Meltwater's Lyseggen was unmoved. "We will appeal this verdict, we think this verdict is a misinterpretation of copyright law. If this ruling stands it will be a significant step back for the UK Internet ecosystem," he said.

"If the court upholds this decision then we think the courts need to take a closer look at copyright law and see if it needs to be more up-to-date for today's world," said Lyseggen.

He also noted that Meltwater News would object less if the license fees that the NLA wants to charge end users were lower. "In principle if the court rules that there must be a license then although we disagree, that's one thing," said Lyseggen. "But the licence should reflect the small amount of copyrighted material being accessed."

Justice Proudman granted permission to appeal her decision; Meltwater's CEO says it will.

 

Jason Stamper is NS technology correspondent and editor of Computer Business Review.

 

 

 

Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

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Jeremy Corbyn fares well in his toughest interview yet

Labour will be relieved that Corbyn's encounter with Andrew Neil was less painful than Theresa May's. 

Jeremy Corbyn's half-hour BBC1 interview with Andrew Neil was the toughest grilling he has faced since becoming Labour leader. Neil sought to cause Corbyn maximum discomfort by confronting him with his past views on the IRA, NATO and Trident (which he never anticipated having to defend from his current position). 

"I didn't support the IRA, I don't support the IRA," Corbyn said in response to the first. After Neil countered that Corbyn "invited convicted IRA terrorists to tea in the Commons a few weeks after the Brighton bomb," the Labour leader replied: "I never met the IRA. I obviously did meet people from Sinn Fein" (a distinction without a difference, some will say). But after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Corbyn is aided by the reduced toxicity of the subject (New Labour dealt with terrorists) and the fact that for some voters, the young most of all, "the troubles" are a distant memory.

NATO, Neil recalled, had been described by Corbyn as "'a very dangerous Frankenstein of an organisation', 'a danger to world peace'. Two years ago you said it should be 'wound up'." It is to Corbyn's credit, in some respects, that he struggles to disguise his sincere views, and he did on this occasion. "NATO exists," he observed at one point, eventually conceding after much prodding: "I will be a committed member of that alliance in order to promote peace, justice, human rights and democracy". But nearly 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the subject will seem esoteric to many voters.

Trident, however, is another matter. "My views on nuclear weapons are well-known," Corbyn correctly noted, making it clear that the Labour manifesto committed to full renewal against his wishes. "I voted against the renewal," he said. "Everybody knows that because I wanted to go in a different direction." That the opposition is divided on such a profound issue - and that Corbyn's stance is at odd with the electorate's - is undoubtedly a drag on Labour's support.

But under forensic examination, Corbyn emerged stronger than many predicted. There were few moments of intemperance and no disastrous gaffes. Corbyn successfully dodged a question on whether Labour would cut immigration by replying that the numbers would "obviously reduce" if more workers were trained. Indeed, compared with Theresa May's painful encounter with Neil last Monday, Corbyn's team will be relieved by his performance. Though the Labour leader cannot escape his past, he avoided being trapped by it tonight. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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