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NLA’s High Court action no cause for concern, say Meltwater and PRCA

May 25th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

Aggregator Meltwater and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) have said they remain confident that the courts will support their case in the dispute with the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) over new licence fees, despite the NLA’s decision to take the matter to the High Court.

Yesterday the NLA said it had started proceedings against Meltwater and the PRCA to help speed up the process of determining whether its new licences – introduced in January, which affect commercial services using links to its newspaper members’ content – are legal. Meltwater and the PRCA have referred the licences and the NLA to a Copyright Tribunal, but the agency is concerned that the Tribunal does not have the powers to make the ultimate decision on the licences’ legality.

The PRCA and Meltwater released the following joint statement:

Having initially learned about the NLA’s decision to take Meltwater and the PRCA to court through the press, both parties have only just received the papers concerning this claim.

While we understand that the industry will want clarification on this issue, we do not see this development as cause for concern.

Naturally, we are reviewing the papers in consultation with our legal advisors. But not wishing to prejudice our case with the Copyright Tribunal, which we believe to be strong, we will study the NLA’s claim before responding.

We remain confident, however, that the NLA’s proposals for a web licence are flawed and that the courts will support our views on this.

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paidContent:UK: Times Online blocks news aggregator Meltwater

March 17th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Search

Following its decision in January to block the NewsNow news monitoring site, Times Online has blocked fellow news aggregator Meltwater.

Meltwater is the only aggregation service that has not complied with a new system introduced by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) at the start of 2010, which includes charging sites that crawl newspaper websites and use this information as part of a commercial service to clients.

Meltwater is taking the NLA to a copyright tribunal and on Monday was told its challenge would go ahead with a procedural hearing in June 2010 and a trial in February 2011.

Full story at this link…

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News International steps up blocking of aggregators

January 12th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Last week Journalism.co.uk reported that Times Online had blocked news aggregator NewsNow from crawling its website.

And now News International has followed suit with its other UK sites, News of the World and The Sun (hat tip to Malcolm Coles for alerting us to this development). Both are now blocking NewsNow’s crawlers.

Last month NewsNow dropped links to the sites of 18 newspapers publishers from its subscription service ahead of the introduction of new charges by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) for aggregators and media monitoring services using newspaper website links in their paid-for services. Links to the Times’ site were not dropped however.

The aggregator also claimed it was facing legal pressure from newspaper groups to remove links.

Last week Struan Bartlett, managing director of NewsNow, made his feelings on NI’s decision clear:

NewsNow and other aggregation businesses will ride the wave, but I am concerned that key freedoms people enjoy, to access publicly available information on the internet using an independent search engine of their choice, are being eroded

But in a statement given to Journalism.co.uk, News International’s reasons for blocking the aggregator hinge on the use of links to its websites within NewsNow’s paid-for service:

NewsNow has been using Times Online content as part of its paid-for, commercial as well as free services. They have continued to do so despite our direct requests for them to stop. As a result, we have taken the decision to disallow their indexing of our content. News International makes a significant investment in journalism and we believe that it is entirely appropriate for us to ask that our rights are respected. NewsNow has acknowledged that they require our permission to use our content and, in the absence of our permission, has ceased to do so.

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NLA suspends payment of new link charges for aggregators

January 7th, 2010 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Newspapers, Online Journalism

Yet another twist in the ongoing dispute over new charges affecting media monitoring services and aggregators introduced by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) this year.

From 1 January the NLA started charging sites, including aggregators, that link to newspaper websites and articles as part of their paid-for services.

The organisation, which is owned by eight UK national newspaper publishers, is only targetting commercial services so as to recoup some revenue from the use of newspapers’ online content.

But the NLA has announced it will suspend invoicing for these charges until the results of a copyright tribunal. The NLA has been taken to the tribunal by Meltwater, the Norwegian-owned media monitoring firm that has not agreed to the NLA’s new system, is taking the NLA to a UK copyright tribunal, arguing that it is equivalent to a stealth tax and not supported by English law.

“Meltwater’s position is that end users do not need a licence to simply receive links and read articles on the NLA’s members’ websites, and we welcome the NLA’s reasonable and proportionate response to the issue now being before the Copyright Tribunal,” said Jørn Lyseggen, CEO Meltwater Group, in a statement to Journalism.co.uk.

If the tribunal finds in favour of the NLA, the agency will backdate payments to 1 January 2010. The date for the tribunal has not yet, but an NLA spokesman said the agency hoped it would be completed by the end of the year.

“We are confident that the copyright tribunal will recognise our web licensing scheme is measured and reasonable. But we do not want any licensed users of newspaper web monitoring to be disadvantaged by Meltwater’s action. Clients of all
monitoring agencies should be on a level playing field. We have therefore decided not to invoice clients for their web licence until the copyright tribunal process is complete,” says David Pugh, managing director of the NLA, in a release.

Meltwater is one of only a small number of services that have refused the NLA’s new fees. News aggregator NewsNow was forced to drop some links to newspaper sites from its paid-for aggregation service as a result of the new system and last month launched a campaign calling for search engines, aggregators and other websites to be legally protected when linking to other online material using a headline, short quote or summary with attribution.

Commenting on the NLA’s decision to suspend invoicing, Struan Bartlett, managing director of NewsNow, said: “‘Measured and reasonable’ are the last two words I would choose to describe the NLA web licensing scheme. One might read it that this move by the NLA indicates they think there is a risk that they will lose the case, and that in that event they would not want to be burdened with having to repay fees wrongly claimed from businesses.”

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NewsNow re-enters newspaper linking fight with campaign; Meltwater takes NLA to copyright tribunal

December 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Legal, Newspapers, Online Journalism

NewsNow, the online news aggregator which this week said it would drop links to some newspaper sites from its paid-for service, has now launched a campaign calling for search engines, aggregators and other websites to be legally protected when linking to other online material using a headline, short quote or summary with attribution.

The Right2Link campaign, while not aimed directly at the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) has no doubt been sparked by the ongoing dispute between NewsNow and the agency over its plans to introduce a licensing system for commercial services, such as aggregators, using links to newspaper websites from January 2010, which forced NewsNow to remove some links.

“Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, as well as other new economy businesses that act as portals and link aggregators, occupy a key role in identifying links that are of interest to be read and passed on.  They are a key part of the world wide web’s system of circulating information,” says a press release from the campaign.

The campaign also attacks representatives from print media groups that demand organisations obtain permission to use links to their newspapers’ websites.

But this isn’t what the NLA is asking for. It only wants to regulate areas where the newspaper links are being used for commercial gain and is a supporter NewsNow’s non-commercial services, for example its free feeds to consumers, it says.

Online media monitoring firm Meltwater, which is also signed up to the campaign but has not agreed to the NLA’s new system, is taking the NLA to a UK copyright tribunal arguing that the new system is equivalent to a stealth tax and not supported by English law.

“We use sophisticated search algorithms to help our clients find content they otherwise would have difficulties locating. The NLA’s attempt to license our clients is essentially a tax on receiving these internet links. This fee is not only unjust and unreasonable, it is contrary to the very spirit of the internet,” argues Jorn Lyseggen, CEO of Meltwater Group, in a statement.

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Update: Newspaper Licensing Agency hits back at claim it is ‘taxing the internet’

September 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments | Posted by in Newspapers, Online Journalism

Last week PR industry reps and news aggregators accused the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) of a  ‘blatant and unjustified attempt to tax the internet’, over plans to charge them for redistributing hyperlinks.

In a letter issued on Thursday, Meltwater, NewsNow, the PR Consultants Association and Updatum called for the NLA ‘to stop this legally baseless attempt to assert its copyright’. The letter was a response to the NLA’s announcement in June that it intends to start charging web aggregators for a licence, permitting them to use links to newspaper articles.

Now, in a statement issued to paidContent:UK, NLA commerical director Andrew Hughes has said the intention behind the licence is to redistribute some of the ‘substantial revenues (aggregators) generate to the content owners’.

As the NLA estimate aggregators and news monitors make a combined annual revenue of £10 million, plans to charge ‘circa 10 percent’ for ‘content scraping’, would mean £1 million could be distributed back to the NLA’s 1,400 member newspapers.

Hughes told paidContent: “Monitoring companies create their services by copying newspaper content into a database to find relevant articles. This is commercial use of publishers’ intellectual property and is against the terms of use for every newspaper. By licensing this activity, the NLA will legitimise this industry.”

The NLA reports it has already signed up several aggregators to the plan, and responded to claims made in the letter that the licence could cost customers an extra £33,474 a year as ‘unsubstantiated and inaccurate’. This figure is in fact the maximum annual fee the NLA could charge for such a licence.

The decision to charge for hyperlinks has sparked much debate since it was announced, with the the Public Relations Consultants Association launching a petition opposing the licence.

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PRCA launches petition against NLA’s backlink charging plans

August 10th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

The Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) has launched a petition on Twitter calling on the Newspaper Licensing Agency to abandon recent proposals to charge organisations that forward and receive URLs of newspaper articles.

There’s been some strong criticism from the industry about the plans already and the PRCA has been consulting stakeholders and members on their views.

“The PRCA has proactively communicated the NLA’s proposals to agencies and the disbelief and anger they have generated extends far beyond our membership. While the NLA has accepted our offer to help them consult with the industry, they need to show this is a genuine consultation by changing their proposals and being transparent about their future pricing plans,” said Richard Ellis, communications director at the PRCA, which represents PR agencies and the wider industry, in a statement on the organisation’s website.

Follow the petition’s progress on the PRCA’s twitter account.

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PR Week: CIPR president on the NLA’s backlink charging plans

July 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

The latest response to the Newspaper Licensing Agency’s (NLA) proposals to regulate hyperlinks to newspaper content for commercial agencies and aggregators – this time from president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), Kevin Taylor.

“I want newspapers to be successful and profitable. I want good standards of journalism and I’m prepared to do my bit: buy a quality daily newspaper and not rely on the free sheets. I hope advertising and online revenues pick up and our best newspapers survive and thrive,” writes Taylor.

“But these latest proposed NLA charges are not the way to fund the newspaper industry. They are nonsensical. The Government needs to be strong enough to stand up to the newspaper owners and impose some regulation on the NLA.

“They are simply a commercial organisation trying to make a living – but they can’t invent a parallel universe in order to justify their charges.”

Full post at this link…

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paidContent:UK: News aggregator may take legal action against NLA copying levy

June 29th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

On Friday paidContent:UK reported this:

“Online news aggregator Moreover is considering taking legal action against the Newspaper Licensing Agency in response to plans to impose a levy on re-distribution of online newspaper articles. paidContent:UK understands more commercial aggregators may also explore action against what they see as a direct attempt to compromise their business model.”

In an update, the NLA’s commercial director, Andrew Hughes told paidContent:UK that the agency  wants to ‘work with aggregators, not against them’.

Full story at this link…

Also see: ‘Going back to the backlink licensing case: NLA’s full statement’ [Journalism.co.uk Editors' Blog]

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Going back to the backlink licensing case: NLA’s full statement

June 26th, 2009 | 6 Comments | Posted by in Legal, Online Journalism

This goes back to last week, but it seems worth putting up here anyway. Last Thursday Matt Wardman covered this story for Press Gazette: about the Newspaper Licensing Agency regulating hyperlinks for commercial agencies and aggregators.

“The NLA will be introducing a new form of licence from 1 September to regulate ‘web aggregator’ services (such as Meltwater) that forward links to newspaper websites and for press cuttings agencies undertaking this type of activity.”

Craig McGill also picked up on it and asked a series of provocative questions. He got a lengthy response from the NLA, including this:

“This is not about bloggers adding links to newspaper sites. Our focus is on professional media monitoring organisations (news aggregators, press cuttings agencies) and their client business who make extensive use of the newspaper content.”

More questions are raised in the comments beneath McGill’s piece, including this one about copyright law.

Last Friday Journalism.co.uk spoke to the NLA who said it was part of their new e-Clips service – ‘a feed of newspapers’ online content direct to cuttings aggregators and press cuttings agencies.’

Here’s the NLA statement in full:

“The Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) today [dated June 2009] announced a new business-to- business clippings database for newspaper websites to launch in January 2010. It also has said it will extend its licensing remit to cover newspaper websites from January 2010.

“The new service, called eClips web, will offer a complete feed of newspapers’ online content direct  to cuttings aggregators and press cuttings agencies. Powered directly from newspapers’ own content-management systems, eClips web will make web-based media monitoring faster and richer and provide a permanent record for PR and communications professionals.

“The NLA will also extend its licensing remit to cover local and national newspapers’ web content. David Pugh, managing director of the NLA, said: “We have two aims: to contribute to the growth of web monitoring; and to protect the rights of publishers. Research shows that 23 per cent of newspapers’ online content never appears in print and that the internet is growing in influence as a resource for news. So it is vital to have comprehensive monitoring coverage of newspapers’ websites – and vital that the publishers are properly rewarded for their work.”

“From September 2009, web aggregators that charge clients for their services will require a NLA licence and be charged from January 2010, The press cuttings agencies that either ‘scrape’ content themselves or buy in services from aggregators will also be licensed and charged. Client companies that receive and forward links from these commercial aggregators within their organisation will also require a licence.

“David Pugh added: “We have consulted extensively across the industry – the incremental charges for web cuttings will be low and manageable. I stress this is not about individuals sharing links – we think that’s great for newspapers and promotes their websites and their readership.  What we are doing is making sure that newspapers are rewarded fairly for professional use of their web content by businesses.””

Further notes:

“The NLA is owned by the 8 national newspaper publishing houses and generates B2B revenues for
1,300 national and regional publishers through licensing use of their content by press cuttings
agencies (PCAs) and their client companies.

“The new licences will cover all local and national titles with the exception of the Financial Times and
the News International titles. These will all, however, be included in the eClips web database.”

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