News International has opened a new front in the paywall battle by blocking web aggregation service NewsNow from linking to stories on Times Online.
NewsNow claims to be the UK's largest homegrown news aggregator and says it attracts two million visitors a month.
It reported today that it has been told by News International that it can no longer link to any content on Times Online.
News International proprietor Rupert Murdoch said last summer he would start charging for access to all of his newspapers' websites later this year. He has also condemned search engines and news aggregators who make money out of journalism without contributing anything in return.
Struan Bartlett, Managing director of NewsNow, said:"It is lamentable that News International has chosen to request we stop linking to their content and providing in-bound traffic and potential subscribers to the Times Online and right now it looks as though NewsNow has been singled out.
"We note that no other major search engine has been blocked by NI in this manner. NewsNow is not fundamentally different to other news search engines that are part of the Internet infrastructure, such as Google News and Yahoo. Why block us and not them?."
According to NewsNow, which is a fully automated aggregation service, the blocking has been carried out via the robots.txt protocol.
Bartlett said: "We can understand why a website would attempt to block a search engine that was abusing its resources or blatantly stealing content. But this clearly isn't the case with NewsNow.
"The freedoms to link and quote sources and compare and contrast reported views are press freedoms on which News International itself relies. Arbitrary attacks on news search engines therefore undermine press freedom, as well as the entire basis on which the Internet runs. NI is asking us to accept restrictions on our freedom to link to publicly available information that it would not accept itself."
Online cuttings service Meltwater is currently taking the Newspaper Licensing Agency to a Copyright Tribunal over whether or not newspapers can control the use of their links.
The NLA brought in new charges at the beginning of the year for cutting agencies which send links to newspaper headlines out to paying clients.