Links in chains
A ROW has broken out over assertions that Irish newspapers were claiming copyright in internet links to their stories online. It seems to have started with a blog posting from a solicitor at McGarr, which represents Irish Women's Aid, which had linked to articles in newspapers carrying positive stories about their fundraising efforts.
Women's Aid received a demand from Newspaper Licensing Ireland Limited (NLIL), a collecting society which to date has gathered cash from those who photocopy newspapers, saying that the organisation should pay €300 to license up to 5 links, €500 for up to 10... or €1350 for 26-50.
Irish newspapers declined pitches of stories about this, oddly enough - until their representative organisation, National Newspapers of Ireland, issued a clarification: "NNI members never object to their newspaper content being used by others for personal use. Licenses are only required when newspaper content is being used by another party for commercial purposes."
Where this leaves Women's Aid is unclear. The Freelance suspects that NLIL will detect a database error, and hopes that it will have the good grace to say so whatever the case.
There is international background to this. Ireland is of course in the middle of a review of its copyright law, propelled by the interests of Google.
German newspapers are lobbying hard for a so-called "neighbouring right" (that is, a right connected to authors' rights but not a right of an author) - to extract money from Google News. This would be analogous to the record producer's right in the recording of a choon - whoever has rights in the words and notes, anyone wanting to copy them needs the permission of whoever holds the "neighbouring right" too. German journalists we have spoken to are lukewarm about this - and want a guarantee that they would personally get a fair share if it were implemented. German law provided for such guarantees: UK and Irish law doesn't.
And in the UK the Newspaper Licensing Agency is reported to be asking musicians for £1250 a year to quote reviews of their work. The Creators' Rights Alliance, of which the NUJ is a member, will be seeking musicians' views on this.
The NUJ has tried, and so far failed, to discover the mechanism by which the NLA channels payments to individual journalists who retain copyright, as distinct from paying the newspaper owners that own the NLA. Colleagues in Ireland report being equally puzzled about NLIL.
It has, until recently, generally been believed that headlines (and by implication phrases that are linked) are too short to be covered by copyright. And short quotes, with attribution, are the subject of specific "exceptions" allowing certain uses without permission. Newspapers, after all, have an interest in journalists being able to quote each other. But in July 2011 the UK High Court ruled in the case NLA -v- Meltwater that that newspaper headlines and extracts can be protected by copyright - at least in the case of Meltwater Holdings BV, which owns "media monitoring" operations that sell lists of headlines.