No NLI, I Won’t Pay For These Links

I used to work in publishing. I know that copyright and unauthorised copying of content are big issues. And if people arw republishing your content wholesale, it’s only right to ask them to pay for the privilege.

But that doesn’t mean that linking is a crime.

So why on earth would the NLI (Newspaper Licensing Ireland Limited) try to charge someone for linking to an article on a newspaper? Particularly a charity?

According to TechCrunch, Women’s Aid linked to the Irish Examiner (amongst others). The Examiner specifically states that it’s OK to link to it. Women’s Aid then got some nasty letters from NLI asking for cash, despite the fact that nowhere on the NLI site is there any mention of there being a charge for linking.

Luckily Women’s Aid had some friendly and clever lawyers who pointed this out to the people at NLI. They also pointed out that, seeing as nearly all newspaper sites nowadays are littered with buttons exhorting people to like articles on Facebook, or Tweet them, all of which comprise links, it could get pretty expensive.

By way of example, Independent News and Media plc publications generally display, under each story, a number of icons, clicking on which allows the story to be linked to on social media. Stories in The Irish Independent can be shared via almost 100 different internet platforms. The Irish Times offers over 300 ways to link to articles. In each case, the “sharing” takes the form of a hyperlink, often including the headline of the article, and a short abstract. This abstract generally runs considerably longer than the 11 words the subject of the European Court of Justice’s decision in Infopaq International A/S v Danske Dagblades Forening (Case C-5/08).

Given the prominence of these sharing and social media buttons on the websites of publications, they can be taken to form part of (if not to entirely supersede) the Terms of Use of the websites and their content. It should be noted that these social media buttons allow sharing not only via personal social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but also via website design platforms such as WordPress. In all cases, these platforms can

My gut feeling, as I said in a Twitter conversation about this yesterday, is that the people running the Examiner, and most other Irish newspapers, had no idea that the NLI was doing this on their behalf (trying to charge for links).

Interestingly, in response to one request for comment, the NLI still seems to believe that their is a case to answer.

“Seeing as we got a letter from a solicitor I’m not going to comment on a letter,” said Frank Cullen, chief executive officer of Newspaper Licensing Ireland. “I’ve given it to our solicitor to prepare a reply and we will reply.”

“We understand Women’s Aid is making copies of newspaper content and that copying requires a licence.”

Newspaper Licensing Ireland operations manager Owen Cullen said the organisation licenses commercial newspaper content in Ireland.

He said there was a difference of opinion on whether hyperlinks to web addresses were copyrights, and although there were no cases in Ireland, there had been cases

I’m looking forward to hearing more about those ‘cases’, just as much as I’m looking forward to hear how much the NLI pays each of the companies that it links to. Maybe we’ll hear about them after someone at the NLI actually reads the T&Cs of the sites they represent, rather than trying to bully people into licences they don’t need to pay for.

Newspapers by ShironekoEuro on flickr

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