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FreePint BlogOne all in NLA/Meltwater copyright battle

Tuesday, 21st February 2012 Please login top-right to be able to star items

By Penny Crossland


The battle continues over whether commercial customers should pay for online news, with news aggregator Meltwater taking the latest ruling to the Supreme Court. In a new twist, Meltwater itself may face charges over content.


Last week saw the latest instalment in the courtroom battle between the UK’s Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) and news aggregator Meltwater over online copyright fees, with both sides claiming progress for their respective causes.

The protracted disagreement between the two sides is becoming increasingly complicated, but now essentially revolves around whether the NLA, representing the UK major news publishers, should charge commercial customers for accessing online news – in addition to the licence required by news aggregators. Meltwater and its ally the PR Consultants Association have long argued that insisting on the second licence runs counter to the idea of free access of information on the internet.

So far, all High Court and Court of Appeal decisions have ruled in favour of the NLA – see last summer’s LiveWire report here, and last week’s Copyright Tribunal decision is still basically a vindication of the NLA’s second licence. As reported by paidContent the tribunal, while allowing the NLA to go ahead with its licence that charges end users a copying fee, did decide in favour of a reduction in the rate charged to small PR companies. They now have to pay a fixed fee of £150, rather than £258. Any future increases are to be linked to inflation.

Meltwater immediately claimed that the rate reduction would save businesses up to £100 million over the course of the next two years and so was able to put a positive spin on last week’s ruling. However, the commercial customer licence remains for now, much to the delight of the NLA.

With this new ruling comes an added complication: licence fees, which have not been paid since 2010 due to the pending Copyright Tribunal case, now need to be collected retrospectively. Meltwater meanwhile, according to paidContent, is taking its case a step further to the Supreme Court – it is still adamant that the notion of charging end users fees to click through to web articles is a nonsense.

And it doesn’t end there – econsultancy reported last week that the Associated Press (AP) was planning to sue Meltwater for using its content without permission, with AP’s CEO Tom Curley referring to the aggregator as a “parasitic distribution service”. Meltwater seemed surprised at AP’s announcement, despite the fact that in January the news agency had launched its news registry called NewsRight and made it clear that Meltwater and other aggregators were on its target list.

The digital copyright battle is set to continue, with no end in site in the foreseeable future. It would seem that only the lawyers will stand to gain.


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Penny Crossland is the owner of CH Business Research, a consultancy specialising in investigative research and market intelligence. Penny conducts research projects for clients from a variety of industry sectors, including financial services, management and security consultancy, FMCG, publishing and retail. Fluent in German, she also translates academic papers and corporate material.

Before establishing her business in 2001, Penny was Research Manager at OC&C Strategy Consultants in London. Penny graduated from Bristol University with a degree in German and Politics and has a Masters degree from London University in contemporary German Literature. She became interested in all aspects of business information through working for an industrial market research company in New York.

Penny can be reached at

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