Appeal For NLA Web Links Court Battle?

PR Week UK is reporting that the Public Relations Consultant Association (PRCA) is considering heading to the Court of Appeal after losing its court battle with The Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) over payment for web links. The organisation, along with Meltwater News, a UK media monitoring service, had argued that PR agencies should not have to pay licensing fees when receiving media coverage reports containing links to publishers’ websites.

In a recent judgment, Mrs Justice Proudman has ruled that web links taken from online news sources are protected by copyright law. The judgment against Meltwater News and the PRCA found that media monitoring services would infringe publishers’ copyright if they aggregated online links without an NLA licence.

PRCA Chief Executive Francis Ingham responded defiantly. He told PRWeek that the PRCA is consider the grounds for appeal. He said, “It does not however diminish our confidence that the NLA is not entitled to impose end user licences on individuals and organisations who receive monitoring services directing them to the newspapers’ own websites.”

Of course, the NLA is welcoming the judgement…it opens up a whole new revenue stream for its members.

Now, I can understand the NLA’s role in supporting publishers when it comes to cutting agencies making dozens or even hundreds of photocopies of hard copy new stories for distribution to clients. The loss of revenue to publishers in this case is pretty clear cut: the price of one subscription v dozens or more.

But when the publisher itself chooses to put editorial content online, free to anyone with a browser, why should PR agencies and brand owners be penalised for looking at it? It’s not like a copy is being made. People are being directed right to the publisher’s own web property to view content that is free for everyone.

This just doesn’t make sense to me. But then again, I’m no lawyer nor judge. Hopefully common sense will prevail.

Sherrilynne Starkie is a consultant at PDMS. For almost 18 years, Sherrilynne has been advising blue-chip organisations on both sides of the pond, covering Britain, Canada and the United States. For three years, Sherrilynne was the Tech Talk columnist for the Isle of Man newspapers. She serves on the steering committee for Isle of Man Women in Business, is on the Executive Council for the Isle of Man Junior Chamber of Commerce. In the past she was on the management committee for the Isle of Man British Computer Society and the marketing committee of Junior Achievement.