A scandal that rocked the world half a decade ago is finally drawing to a close. UK Prime Minister’s former Director of Communications, Andy Coulson, was found guilty of conspiring to hack phones from 2000 to 2006 while he was the editor of News of the World, a subsidiary of News Corp. But News Corp is in the news for more than a criminal offense. News Corp Australia owns 142 newspapers and recently started a feud with new kid on the block, Daily Mail Australia. The acrimony started in early June when News Corp threatened to sue Daily Mail if they did not cease plagiarizing their work and called Daily Mail’s journalists “copy snatchers and parasites.” Daily Mail countered back by stating that News Corp has lifted 10 of their stories from their website without citing proper credit or linking back to the original story. Amongst the stories lifted, Daily Mail claimed News Corp had used an exclusive video of One Direction smoking cannabis without providing them with proper credit.
Fair use is a valid defense in a copyright infringement suit but you have to make sure you use third party content correctly. Blogging has become a popular means to transmit information, both professionally and recreationally. When posting content online, always ensure you provide proper credit for the sources of any information, photos, video, etc. that you have gathered. Provide links back to the original story and make sure you read the licensing terms of limited right reserved images. Trust me; you do not want to be slapped with an infringement suit. Subscription online photo galleries scour the internet to catch people who use their images without authorization. Look at it this way, if doing things by the book is not incentive enough (which it should be!) adding links to your blogs help improve SEO, so it’s a win-win.
But is providing credit and links enough? News aggregators provide personalized news article links based on customized preferences, saving users time and effort. Popular Chinese news aggregation app ‘Today’s Headlines’ got $100 million in funding earlier this month in its third round of venture capital funding. This brought its valuation up to $500 million, just another success story in a long line of news aggregators such as Flipboard.
News aggregators have steadily been increasing in popularity and hurting traditional news outlets. Today’s Headlines as well as other news aggregators has come under fire from China’s National Copyright Administration division for copyright management that has been receiving a number of complaints of copyright infringement ad investigating online copyright management. The co-founder of Byte Dance, the company that owns Today’s Headlines, claims that the industry model does not need copyright.
Although technically everything is by the book, various media groups have made moves to change the law to adapt to the changing digital landscape. Back in February of this year, Spain passed a bill attempting to amend its intellectual property law, known as the Sinde Law, which aims to charge news aggregators a fee for using content linked to traditional media websites as well as periodically updated blogs and websites. This fee, or ‘Google Tax’, will help compensate media outlets for using fragments of their content. The tax will be collected by CEDRO, a copyright management company that will distribute the collected money equally amongst the members.
This bill has received public criticism and ironically most news articles published online provide links to post the article on social media outlets like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. which provide links for aggregators to use and increase their traffic. Whether this bill will ever become law remains to be seen as similar laws have been attempted to be passed in Germany, France, and Belgium without success. A number of Belgium news agencies successfully managed to win a long, drawn-out case against Google to have their content removed from Google News and its indexes. Ironically this victory caused more harm than good as they suffered a significant loss of users and views affecting their ad revenue after Google removed them completely from their search indexes. This led Copiepresse, the Belgian copyright management group responsible for the suit, to back down from its stance and allow Google to index its websites without paying any fee.
Is your intellectual property property?