Copyright Tribunal Begins Hearing News Links Complaint

The dispute over how much companies should pay for receiving links to web news articles through commercial media monitors was due to move to the Copyright Tribunal in central London on Monday.

The tribunal, a pseudo-judicial body, will rule on the case brought by Meltwater and the Public Relations Consultants Association against the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA). Hearings are due to run to September 20, a verdict is expected by Christmas.

The NLA, which was founded by the UK’s eight main national newspaper publishers to command re-use fees from print clippings agencies, now also requires two licenses for re-use of online material – one from paid monitors themselves, and another from monitors’ customers.

Meltwater and the PRCA object to the latter. They have already lost their fight in the High Court and Court Of Appeal, which found that monitors like Meltwater are effectively copying content by ingesting it, processing it and sending summaries with links to clients. Now the Copyright Tribunal case, which they lodged in December 2009, has finally come about.

Meltwater does not object to the license required of monitors like itself, which scales from £5,000 to £10,000. But it is fighting the payments required by its clients, which run either at a flat £0.05 per article or a sliding scale starting from £59 per year, based on number of recipients. A typical recipient business would pay £200 to £400, according to the NLA.

That’s way under the £1,800 typically charged to recipients of print cuttings via agencies. But the NLA plans to progressively raise the digital fees to this level over the next five years, in anticipation of the cuttings business moving away from print entirely.

Meltwater and the PRCA also don’t want to have to disclose their clients’ identities to the NLA. And they want any fee to be nominal. The UK Media Monitoring Association (UKMMA) – whose main clients include Precise, Gorkana and Kantar – have also joined the tribunal case in objection to some points of the license.