Back in October, we wrote about how various newspapers, under the auspices of the “Newspaper Licensing Agency” were threatening NewsNow, a UK news aggregator that is (in my experience) one of the more comprehensive aggregators out there, but which only shows headlines and links to full stories. It’s difficult to see how that would be a copyright violation in anyone’s definition of the term or why that should require any kind of license. The NLA gave NewsNow until last week to “comply” and according to the folks over at the Nieman Lab, NewsNow has decided to bid adieu to those sources rather than pay up:
“Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach an agreement with the NLA. In spite of the NLA’s claims to the contrary, we continue to maintain that what they are demanding of ourselves and our customers is unacceptable and of questionable legitimacy. Irrespective of the lack of a legal basis, the NLA’s licence is not fit for purpose. This is not just about the charges they intend to impose on us, but the charges they would also impose on our customers for receiving and circulating links within their own organisations. In addition, it is a perhaps an under-reported fact that the terms dictated by the NLA scheme would oblige us to hand over customer details to the NLA, which seems to be developing a potential rival service itself. It is hard to imagine that this kind of behaviour would be tolerated in any other sector. The NLA has also offered no reasonable guarantees of limitations on the increase of costs over time. We strongly feel that to accept the NLA’s terms would set a dangerous precedent restricting our customers’ ability to conduct their business freely. We see this as a ‘slippery slope’ towards any free-to-access website demanding licence fees from any organisation for circulating or clicking on links.”
It is interesting that part of the license would have required handing over customer info, and good of NewsNow to resist this. The aggregator says that it will still provide links to those sources in its free (extremely feature limited) online offerings, but will remove them from its subscription offerings. It’s difficult to see how this benefits anyone. It makes life worse for newspapers, NewsNow itself and NewsNow customers.