If you receive legal threats from an an entire industry, you could just ask them to stop. At least, that’s what one news aggregator has done: in the face of a stern legal letter from all major national newspaper publishers, tailored newsfeed provider Newsnow has written an open letter (via J.co.uk) to publishers asking them to cease their legal campaign against it.
Newsnow MD and chairman Struan Bartlett writes: “We are aware that many newspapers are facing severe financial challenges… But we have had enough of indiscriminate attacks. To vilify all aggregators as “cheap, worthless technological news solutions” and “content kleptomaniacs” [Bartlett's references], is just empty rhetoric.”
The letter names News International, Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI), Associated Newspapers, Guardian News & Media, Telelgraph Media Group, Northern & Shell and Independent Newspapers as publishers that are mounting legal challenges against Newsnow. Although he doesn’t mention it, the publishers are targeting the company and other aggregators via the Newspaper Licensing Agency, which brings in a licensing regime in January designed to, in its words, “legitimise… content-scraping companies” that profit from selling links to newspapers’ content on an industrial scale.
Bartlett argues — as do the owners of similar companies — that there is nothing illegal about simply linking to stories; at least one aggregator has considered taking its own legal action. But the NLA will point to this section of Newsnow’s site, which offers tailored feeds of copyrighted content for £95 a month. The NLA also argues that these sites do copy newspaper sites’ content wholesale and index it themselves, which itself is a contravention of copyright.
In any case, both sides of this argument don’t seem willing to concede any ground at all, and it wouldn’t be surprising if one or two battles in this ongoing copyright war were resolved in the courts.