Online and print news clippings service Meltwater says it has referred the Newspaper Licensing Agency to the UK’s Copyright Tribunal over its new rules, coming January 1, that would compel online news monitoring agencies to pay thousands of pounds for providing links to newspaper stories.
Meltwater says in a statment on Thursday that the expanded NLA licence is a “link tax” and it’s challenging the entire basis of the NLA’s position on web licensing.
The tribunal is an independent body which exists to settle disputes surrounding licensing bodies. It may or may not decide to call a hearing, but don’t expect a decision for several months.
As other aggregators have in the past, Meltwater says that no-one can regulate the sending and receiving of hyperlinks. But this isn’t what the NLA is doing. The agency, owned by the main eight national newspaper publishers, says it is regulating companies that profit from selling links to other companies — i.e. the corporate buying and selling of links on a mass scale. Or as the NLA puts it in a statement: “This is not about links: it is about profiting from someone else’s intellectual property without paying your fair share of the cost.”
Moreover was also threatening to sue at one point, before signing up to the new scheme.
Norway-based Meltwater Group CEO Jorn Lysegge says “This fee is not only unjust and unreasonable, it is contrary to the very spirit of the internet.” He’s joined in the fight by PR Consulants’ Association director general Francis Ingram, who says “It is ludicrous for organisations to need a license to receive links to coverage that is freely available to view online.” But is it so ludicrous to licence the selling of that content? Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Bing don’t charge anyone to see its links, which is not the case for Meltwater….
He also cites freedom of expression as a defence, but this is also about money: the NLA expects to make an extra £1 million from licensing aggregators, so maybe these companies have a better case if they admitted that there’s also a financial motivation in opposing attempts to regulate their industry…