Aggregator agrees deal to pay for UK online news links

The Copyright Tribunal has delivered a final decision bringing to an end a costly battle over the right of news aggregators to exploit online content.

The decision means that news monitoring company Meltwater now accepts paying charges to sell on links and headlines which it has scraped from UK news websites.

The legal battle dates from January 2010 when the Newspaper Licensing Agency first sought to impose licences on companies which sell on aggregated news headlines to paying clients.

The Copyright Tribunal ruling will allow the NLA to impose its planned fees backdated between 2010 and 2012 and new – slightly lower than planned – fees after 2012.

The fees are around £10,000 for the aggregator (ie Meltwater) and then 5p per link for the end user, or a fixed annual fee depending on the size of company.

The legal battle, pursued through the civil courts and the Copyright Tribunal, is thought to have cost the NLA and Meltwater around £2m each.

The latest development means the UK newspaper industry can start collecting fees from online media monitoring worth around £1m to £1.5m a year.

But more significantly for the future of UK journalism, it upholds the principle that online news headlines and links are copyright material.

This could pave the way for the UK press to take a tougher line in future with free news aggregators such as Google.

NLA won its case at the Appeal Court in 2011 but Meltwater is still set to take one aspect of it to the Supreme Court. It argues that aggregation should be covered by the copyright exception for the temporary copying of internet files.

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