Independent declines to pay for court story 'lifted' from Wales Online telling freelance: 'There is no copyright in news'

The Independent has declined to pay a freelance journalist for a court report it “lifted” from Wales Online telling him “there is no copyright in news”.

Glyn Bellis said he was the only journalist in court in Llandudno for the case of a 50-year-old man who placed barbed wire across a forest cycle path.

Bellis was paid for the original use of the story by Wales Online.

The story was then followed up by The Independent which appeared to take all the details of the case from the Wales Online report.

The Independent included a link to Wales Online in the fourth paragraph of its piece.

It then quoted extensively from evidence heard in court, apparently taking this from the Wales Online piece.

The paper also used a police quote given to Bellis, with attribution to Wales Online.

Bellis told Press Gazette: “This is worse than when a newspaper claimed £3 was reasonable for a court story which had at least been provided by my agency. In this case the Independent has quite blatantly lifted a court story and refused to pay a very modest fee.

“It would be interesting to know how this title, which boasts of high journalistic standards, would have defended any complaint to IPSO.

“This kind of activity should be of concern not just to journalists but to the publisher’s rivals, too, because the Independent is trying to get a free service to attract web traffic and then advertising.

“Unlike the Independent, Wales Online does the honourable thing and pays for stories which we supply.

“I’m looking into my options. Court reporting requires some skill so I don’t believe the Independent can get away with stating ‘there is no copyright in news and we have not acted improperly’.

“In short, this is a question of journalistic ethics.”

The Independent has declined to pay an invoice sent in by Bellis for use of his story.

A spokesperson reiterated comments made to Bellis saying: “We based our report – written in our own words – on material previously published on the Wales Online website, as our piece made clear (with a link back to the Wales Online piece). There is no copyright in news and we have not acted improperly.

“The suggestion that our position is connected with our status as a digital publisher is plainly without foundation. Reference to IPSO is a very obvious red herring too.

“We are proud of our standards and of the progress which saw the Independent reach an average 6,577,317 unique browsers daily in May.”

The Independent – like The Guardian, Evening Standard and Financial Times – is not signed up to a press regulator.


12 thoughts on “Independent declines to pay for court story 'lifted' from Wales Online telling freelance: 'There is no copyright in news'”

  1. For many years I have been be wondering how the journalists who have their bylines on such stories feel about this.
    Whether lifted or legitimately obtained, there’s no doubt that a very large proportion of the nationals’ stories are sourced from regionals and weeklies.
    I imagine there’s an awful lot of highly trained, ambitious, skilled journalists who have worked hard to get their job on papers like the Independent.
    I often wonder how they must feel when they have to sit at their desks all day, rewriting or lifting other people’s stories and then having their name on them.
    It must be a real downer when your proud parents and friends say to you, “That story that you wrote was amazing.” and all you have done is copy and paste it into a box.

  2. Have you read the MailOnline lately? It’s their entire business plan. They would only have about three pieces a day if they didn’t rip-off other stories.

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