This year the Irish newspaper industry asserted, first tentatively and then without any equivocation, that links -just bare links like this one- belonged to them. They said that they had the right to be paid to be linked to. They said they had the right to set the rates for those links, as they had set rates in the past for other forms of licensing of their intellectual property. And then they started a campaign to lobby for unauthorised linking to be outlawed.
These assertions were not merely academic positions. The Newspaper Industry (all these newspapers) had its agent write out demanding money. They wrote to Women’s Aid, (amongst others) who became our clients when they received letters, emails and phone calls asserting that they needed to buy a licence because they had linked to articles in newspapers carrying positive stories about their fundraising efforts. These are the prices for linking they were supplied with:
1 – 5 €300.00
6 – 10 €500.00
11 – 15 €700.00
16 – 25 €950.00
26 – 50 €1,350.00
50 + Negotiable
They were quite clear in their demands. They told Women’s Aid “a licence is required to link directly to an online article even without uploading any of the content directly onto your own website.”
Recap: The Newspapers’ agent demanded an annual payment from a women’s domestic violence charity because they said they owned copyright in a link to the newspapers’ public website.
This isn’t the case of a collection agent going rogue.
The National Newspapers of Ireland is the representative body for Irish Newspaper Publishers.
Go read the rest of the article.
Many, many things irritate me about this abuse of intellectual property by Irish newspapers, but what really gets my goat is these news web sites could easily block deep linking via their webserver settings… but they choose not to do that. Why not? Obviously, because they actually want those deep links: they depend on that traffic. Still, their business model is failing. So, in a particularly nasty fit of short-sighted pragmatism, they’ve invented an utterly ridiculous legal claim of copyright infringement to compel those providers of traffic to pay them ridiculous sums of money after the fact. It’s just appalling.
The good news is that (1) I can’t imagine that any courts will uphold these claims and (2) if they do, the result will only be the utter obliteration of Irish newspapers from the face of the earth. You asked for it, brothers!