UK News Pubs Take Meltwater To Court For Aggregator Ruling

In the argument over whether commercial news aggregators should pay publishers for the privilege, the stakes were just raised.

The Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA), which in January began charging public relations monitors and their customers to index its members’ sites, is now taking non-compliant monitor Meltwater News to the High Court.

Meltwater, together with the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), had already referred the NLA to the UK’s Copyright Tribunal, a less powerful, independent intellectual property arbitration agency, to undo its two new web licenses. The NLA had urged the tribunal not to consider Meltwater’s complaint but failed.

Now the NLA is seeking a quicker ruling, saying: “The Copyright Tribunal process is lengthy and is unlikely to be resolved until February 2011. Crucially, it is doubtful whether the Copyright Tribunal has jurisdiction over the terms of law governing aggregator and end user licences. The NLA has therefore decided to seek a High Court ruling to create legal clarity.”

The NLA is owned by the UK’s eight leading national news publishers and has, for years, charged clippings agencies to photocopy their printed page. In January, it introduced two new licenses requiring (1) that commercial agencies pay between £5,000 and £10,000 per year to crawl online papers and (2) that the agencies