Solent News wins payout from PA over 'lifted' interview

The Press Association has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to news agency Solent News after it was accused of ‘lifting’an interview with the father of murdered landscape architect Joanna Yeates.

The dispute related to Solent’s interview with David Yeates which was distributed to several ‘selected publications’including the Southern Daily Echo.

After the interview was published on the Echo’s website, Solent claimed it later appeared ‘word for word’on the Daily Mirror website – with the attribution ‘told the Southern Daily Echo”.

Solent later discovered it had been distributed to the Mirror and other media outlets by PA and accused PA of ‘stealing’the story.

At the time PA insisted it had ‘acted in good faith in our reporting of this story” and rejected claims it was in breach of copyright.

But a statement released jointly with the National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA), which supported Solent’s action, said a legal challenge had ‘resulted in a full written settlement with PA in which the wire service agreed to pay Solent and NAPA’s legal costs in full”.

Solent’s David Holt today insisted that the dispute was ‘never about money’and said its settlement fee would be donated to the Journalists’ Charity.

‘It was about journalistic practice and, to some extent, the future of journalism, particularly on the internet,’he said.

“Our work seems to have been blithely copied and pasted by someone sat at a computer miles away from the subject of the story, in this case grieving relatives, and put out for consumption, apparently without a second thought.’

He went on: “This wasn’t a case of someone grabbing a couple of quotes. It was a wholesale lift. We had filed 237 words, the piece by PA which was published in numerous newspapers and websites was 241 words and included the attribute ‘told the Southern Daily Echo,’ which was of course wrong.

“There followed a series of exchanges with PA in which they first tried to argue ‘there is no copyright on news’ and then, without a hint of irony, tried to hide behind fair usage under copyright legislation. They refused point blank to withdraw the story.

“We ended-up head to head with PA’s lawyers. They tried to tell us that they had every right, that we did not have a case and even threatened to sue us if we dared to suggest that there was anything untoward.”

NAPA president Denis Cassidy added: “The suggestion that copy can be lifted wholesale is completely wrong and there was an important matter of principle at stake.

“We supported Solent and when they found themselves ranged against the legal might of the national wire service. NAPA was pleased to be able to back the action of one of our members.”

NAPA and Solent were represented by specialist IP lawyer Bill Lister of Pannone.

PA was asked to comment but had not replied by the time of publication.

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