Suppose you wrote a book.
How would you feel if I put a post here explaining exactly where to find your book on the library shelves. Would you be outraged? Would you send me a bill?
Well, if you were an outfit called Newspaper Licensing Ireland Ltd, that’s exactly what you’d do and that’s precisely what they did to Women’s Aid, the charity for female victims of domestic violence.
NLI represents the following publications:
The Irish Independent
The Irish Examiner
The Irish Times
The Irish Daily Star
The Sunday Independent
The Sunday World
The Sunday Business Post
TheIrish Mail on Sunday
The Irish Farmers Journal
The Irish Daily Mail
The Irish Daily Mirror
The Irish Sun
The Irish Sunday Mirror
The Sunday Times
The Irish Sun on Sunday
Why did they demand money from Women’s Aid, of all people?
Because the charity on their website included links to certain newspaper articles. Links, not quotes. They didn’t copy and paste large tracts of these articles or in any other way infringe copyright, but they were nevertheless slapped with a bill because, despite the fact that there is no law to support their view, NLI contends that even the link is copyright protected.
It is the view of NLI that a link to copyright material does constitute infringement of copyright, and would be so found by the Courts.
It’s a bit like saying that the address of your house is copyright.
A clue to their position can be found in another part of their submission:
Any argument that linking in fact drives traffic to the publisher’s website, and therefore is in the publisher’s interests, ignores the fact that linking directly to the article/report/content by-passes much of the publisher’s revenue generating advertising available from the publisher’s homepage.
Loosely translated, this means We don’t know how to design a website. Rather than welcoming the free traffic arising from other people’s recommendations, they complain that such support bypasses their carefully-contrived front page and therefore costs them revenue.
Reflect on that, next time you tell people about something interesting you happened to read in the paper. Instead of advising them to check out the latest carefully-argued and well-researched article by internet guru John Waters, you’ll have to hedge it a little. Why don’t you have a look at the Times? There’s something good in it, but I can’t tell you what or where in case you miss the ads.
That’s a great business model, isn’t it?
Now of course, if you were bypassing some sort of pay-wall, that would be a different matter, but the papers put their material out there for all to see provided, it seems, that nobody finds out exactly what or where it is.
A bit like the Vatican, they just don’t seem to get it, and now they’re at sixes and sevens as a storm of national and international ridicule breaks over them. The Irish Times has broken ranks first with an article that contradicts the submission of its umbrella body to the copyright committee.
According to the IT (and here I take the risk of being invoiced for breach of copyright),
The Irish Times 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.
So which is it? Either a link is copyright or it isn’t. Yes? No? The attack dog is barking one thing while one of its masters whistles something else.
The Irish newspaper industry has done its credibility no favours by adopting this illogical and confrontational line. All it has achieved is to confirm the widespread view that it’s owned and operated by people who can’t find an accommodation with the modern era but more to the point, who can’t see the advantages of embracing the new ways of disseminating information.
As always in print journalism, there are people who think nobody else is entitled to express a view, and it seems that tendency has prevailed, which is a great pity. There’s nothing better than a well-produced, well-written newspaper. It appeals to all the senses and it can never be matched by electronic media. However, if a newspaper fails to realise that the world has expanded, it will occupy a diminished space and eventually it will atrophy and die.
Perhaps it’s time for the Irish papers to re-examine the kind of brimstone prophets they have elevated and realise that the best way for all to prosper is by putting the sword away.
UPDATE Statement from NLI
Statement on behalf of Newspaper Licensing Ireland Limited regarding use of newspaper content
For personal use: NLI never requires or requests a licence for personal use of newspaper content.
For commercial use: NLI does not require a licence from any organisation which only displays or transmits links to newspaper content. A licence is required when there is other reproduction of the newspaper content, such as display of PDFs or text extracts.
6 January 2012
Note the careful wording. There is still no acknowledgement that a link is not copyright and therefore the statement is meaningless.