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Moreover May Sue Newspaper Biz Over Online Copying Levy

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.

The NLA, which polices unauthorised use of content for thousands of local and national newspapers, wants to impose charges on “web-scraping” services which copy sites’ entire content and redistribute it via tailor-made datafeeds to paying customers. From September, aggregators will require the NLA’s standard licence to continue and the agency will start charging services without one in January.

NLA digital MD commercial director Andrew Hughes told me Friday: “This is not about having a go at bloggers: it’s about large, commercial operations which are scraping the entire content of tens of thousands of websites and creating paid-for services from them.” He named Meltwater, which offers clients a searchable database of 90,000 online news sources in more than 110 countries, and Moreover as offenders in the “content scraping” sector. We understand Moreover is mounting “a large response” in the coming months.

It’s not the first time Moreover publishing model has come under fire: in October 2007 AP sued the company for publishing excerpts of news reports “without permission and infringing on the news organization

5 Responses to “Moreover May Sue Newspaper Biz Over Online Copying Levy”

  1. Phil Sutcliffe

    Ahem, well why not get it right, in case anyone's looking… Other interested freelances point out to me that while the spirit of wot I said above is correct, the letter isn't. Actually, the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) collects the photocopying license money (and a few other odds and sods of subsidiary rights money). It has equal numbers of authors and publishers on its board (hurray!). Then it distributes to writers via ALCS (board all writers or chosen by writers anyway) and to publishers via PLS (board all publishers or chosen by publishers). On the photographic side, DACS serves the same function and has the same set-up as ALCS. So the point about representation and distribution stands quite clearly in books and magazines. Not in newspapers because of the NLA and the newspaper publishers who dominate it. I'm also advised – to be confirmed – that the authors/writers ALCS deal with get their money regardless of whether some publishing corp. has elbowed them out of copyright ownership or, via a "comprehensive license", out of all/most of their rights to remuneration from further uses of their work – somehow the spirit of copyright law and natural justice prevailed. Would you Adam an' Eve it?

  2. Phil Sutcliffe

    Angus Batey is right about the NLA's role. It's very existence as a "licensing" body which represents publishers only when so much content in newspapers is provided by freelances is a scandalous denial of the (modest) rights of self-employed authors embodied in the '88 copyright act and of the industrial reality that newspapers need the availability of a body of capable freelances. Its role, though not central, has only become increasingly damaging to the continued wellbeing and existence of a vigourous freelance workforce in recent months as newspapers have cut freelance budgets and/or rates. That is, we can't even get hold of the photocopying license money we should be entitled to because the NLA reinforces the newspapers' heinous practice of systematically trying to deprive freelances of their copyright via corporate contracts. The NLA, like every other collecting society I'm aware of involved in print and music rights, should be an impartial body with equal author and publisher representation on its board as the ALCS and DACS have been for many years – hence, their impartial annual distribution of equitably shared income direct to rights-owning authors and direct to rights-owning publishers.

  3. Angus Batey

    Thanks, but that's a bit disingenuous. You are – to all intents and purposes – a collection society, like ALCS or DACS, but you're set up and funded by newspaper publishers so are effectively run by them. You're collecting this money, some of which you know and freely admit belongs not to the publishers but to individual journalists and photographers. Yet instead of setting up a system to share these revenues with those creators, you give it all to the publishers and then pass the responsibility for chasing recompense over to the individual creators, knowing full well that when we raise this with the papers, they refer us back to you.

    Also, what do you mean when you talk about "journalists who have reserved their rights"? Everything I write is my copyright, unless I've signed it away – something I work very hard not to do. Are you saying that you won't acknowledge that I own my own copyright unless I've told you specifically, or signed up to your scheme? (A scheme which, incidentally, is not mentioned anywhere on your website, thus making it somewhat difficult for freelances to even know about, never mind join.)



  4. Newspaper Licensing Agency

    A quick note for Angus (and any other freelance journalists reading).
    You may not be aware that the NLA operates a scheme to monitor the contribution of freelance journalists (our ‘Special Contributor Scheme’).
    We use an independently managed survey method to estimate the level of commercial copying revenue that can be attributed to those freelance journalists who have reserved their rights (running at less than 1% of our revenues) and advise publishers of the amount of money due to freelance contributors as a whole (as a survey it does not identify individual payments due).
    Publishers (not the NLA) then make payments to journalists, or where this is not possible, to the Journalists Charity.
    For further details, you should contact the publishers that you write for.

  5. Angus Batey

    > paidContent:UK understands more commercial aggregators may also explore action against what they see as a direct attempt to compromise their business model.

    This "business model" – if I understand this correctly, they take stuff someone else has created and/or paid to have created, repackage it a tad and sell it on to someone else, without paying anything to the originator. How is this different from, say, someone buying a big screen and a projector, hiring a room, borrowing a couple of recent DVDs off a mate, and charging admission to anyone wanting to see the films?

    I rarely agree with the NLA on very much – as a freelance journalist, whose work for newspapers is re-sold by the NLA without me getting a cut of the deal, I find myself in pretty much the same kind of relationship with them as they are with the scrapers – but I'm with them in this instance. But perhaps the NLA would like to clean its own house at the same time, and share some of its revenues with journalists, not just with publishers.