NLA Licensing: Do you need a license?

Last month the Copyright Tribunal put to bed a 3-year running legal dispute between the Newspaper Licensing Association (NLA) and the media-monitoring service Meltwater over web-based media monitoring services.

In a nutshell, Meltwater’s customers can subscribe to receive news alerts with links to the articles in question. The NLA, which speaks for over a thousand papers, argued that this is copyright infringement and introduced a licensing scheme for media-monitors that crawl websites, extract text, and offer copies to clients.

Meltwater took its case to the Copyright Tribunal, arguing that the NLA’s license is unfair. After three years, the Tribunal has ruled that Meltwater are subject to the license. On a positive note, Meltwater and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) successfully petitioned to sharply reduce fees for the new web licenses from £258 to £150 per business.

So what does this all mean for the PR professional? In an interview with PRMoment, Andrew Hughes of the NLA clarifies several points:

Content on national and local newspaper websites is, in general, available for the free use of individuals, but it is subject to copyright and to terms and conditions of use. If you are a private individual who sometimes sends a link to friends you do not need a licence. In general you only need a licence or permission from the publisher if you are sending links for commercial gain or in some other systematic way.

Whilst each individual website has its particular terms and conditions, the following terms are representative of those which apply to newspaper website content:

1. Making personal links to website pages for reference is acceptable;
2. Sending links is usually acceptable, except for commercial gain. Sending a link to a colleague / friend is fine, as is putting a link to an article on an intranet or website;
3. Regularly sending links as part of your paid work (e.g. monitoring websites for a client or manager) requires a licence;
4. Making copies of the content of newspaper website content (eg multiple prints, PDFs, etc) requires publisher permission.
5. Making copies of newspaper website content in the course of wider activity (for example building a commercial computer index) would require a licence, even if the content was not sent to a third party.

One further point is yet to be clarified – whether the mere act of browsing a newspaper’s company website in the workplace is an infringement of copyright and therefore requires a license. This will be decided by the Supreme Court in February 2013.