The NLA has played a bold stroke in its ongoing scrap with web aggregator Meltwater. It announced today that it will ask the High Court to rule on Meltwater’s opposition to the scheme.
NLA managing director David Pugh says that he wants to clear the matter up at the earliest opportunity rather than waiting for a judgment from the Copyright Commission in February 2011.
“We believe that clarity on all aspects of our web licences needs to be achieved as quickly and unambiguously as possible. The Copyright Tribunal will rule on the commercial aspects of NLA web licensing […] but the High Court is the proper place to decide on the legality of our web licences,” said Pugh.
We’ve followed this issue at Speed for the past year and whenever I hear of mates in the media losing their jobs I return to the issue.
We’ve been fooled into thinking that online content is free by the NLA’s newspaper publisher members.
Up until recently these publishers have been willing to give away editorial content online for free in a bid to secure traffic around which they could build advertising revenues. It’s a model that failed in all but a few exception circumstances.
We almost certainly won’t be having this argument in five or ten years time because by then publishers will either have gone bust or will have established robust financial models and mechanisms for protecting their content.
But for now the question remains. If business-to-business aggregators and press clipping agencies are generating an income from original content produced by a newspaper either in print or online shouldn’t they make a contribution to the original source?
We can argue over whether the NLA’s model is appropriate and how it should be applied throughout the PR supply chain but at its core the NLA is seeking to ensure that its members receive a contribution from anyone that generates income from the after market for their content.
It’s true that the income that is generated won’t prop up the ailing newspaper industry but the principle at stake is one of fairness. If you reuse or repurpose my content commercially I want a share of the action.
The NLA remains insistent that Google as a consumer-facing service is not part of this debate and that its members have their own direct deals in place with the search giant.
I struggle with this argument and am sure that it’s this issue that Meltwater will challenge if it can afford to pursue the case via the High Court. Google Alerts and Google News are almost certainly the most widely used frontline monitoring tools by agencies and brands in the UK and US.