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back to article News leech loses appeal on High Court copyright case

Commercial news parasite Meltwater has lost an appeal in the High Court against the newspaper industry. The company provided a commercial headline-scraping service to clients in PR and marketing agencies. But a landmark judgment in the High Court last November decreed that it would require a licence, ruling that newspaper story …

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Bronze badge
Coat

Did Bart get you to write that??

'Steal our headlines and you steal arseholes'

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ranging between £58 and an average of £500 per year?

What on earth does that mean?

I always thought an average was somewhere within the middle of a range.

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Silver badge

Do you mean the median

rather than the average?

But your first point stands.

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Subject

Well I took it that the minium was 58 and the average was 500 with most prices falling between those amounts. No mention of the maximum but it only take a small number of high values to skew an average to the top end of a range.

Possibly one paper wants to discourage this entirely so is charging £20,000 a year ?

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Facepalm

Very simple... A minimum of £58, but on average £500

That means that the minimum a license will cost is £58, but that the average license is around £500 a year.

Not that difficult, really. Simples.

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Thumb Up

Pedantry

Values could range between £58 and £500 and still have £500 as the average if £500 is the modal value. £500 could even be the mean with a certain degree of precision if the data consists of e.g. 100,000 values of £500 and a single value of £58 i.e. the mean = £499.996 => £500.00 with rounding.

The original sentence was still very wrong though.

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Silver badge

Not good

Allowing copyright on such small fragments of text is not a good or sensible precedent.

The problem with judges deciding things is judges are all ex-lawyers and as such are biased towards decisions that increase work for lawyers. I'm not convinced - especially in light of my own experience in the High Court as a witness - that any legal decisions should be made without a jury.

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Gold badge
Mushroom

Re: Not good

That was my initial reaction.

Then I saw: "The Public Relations Consultants Association, formed from Meltwater customers,". While I truly hate the idea of "One law for us..." and fully agree that justice should be blind, in this case it's terribly hard to muster any sympathy at all for the bastards taking the shaft over this.......

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Facepalm

What, just because it's the PRCA they should be shafted?

And at the same time you claim that you truly hate the idea of "One law for us...".

You'll find that the effectiveness of marketing depends on key words and the best way to figure this out is to look at articles (whether they are PR puff pieces or actual news is irrelevant).

Just because the PRCA took advantage of screen scrapers that automate the ability to research what's being said about their clients by looking at headlines does not make them the bad guys. What I *do* think though is that Meltwater *should* need a license because it is an automated service and it has the capability of skewing click stats on the newspaper sites.

Oh well...

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Meltwater and the licence

Worth pointing out that Meltwater has never said it wouldn't take a licence.

This whole issue is down to the NLA wanting Metlwater's customers to have to take a licence in addition to the one Meltwater takes. Note: the same applies to all the other monitoring companies.

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Bronze badge

That sounds bizarre

Just how far along the chain would that end up going. What's next? The customers of the PR companies who are Meltwater's customers having to buy a licence?

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@ Not good

You are missing the point.

A headline is not a fragment - it is an entire element that is created completely as a single entity.

Further - even if it was a quote frrom a larger element that would still be copyright protected, and rightly so, except for fair use purposes. There is nothing about headline scraping that falls within any definition of fair use (i.e. criticism, comparison, exemplar).

No need to get the vapours about setting precedents as the judgement itself is very narrow in scope and, quite properly, addresses itself to the particular circumstances of the case and makes it clear that it doesn't apply to individuals

The webscrapers in this case were using the outcome of other people's creative processes to gain a commercial benefit to themselves. if the web is ever going to emerge from its own primordial ooze and become something worthwhile then it needs to protect the rights of people who add value and not those who simply leech off of everyone else.

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Alert

Classic headlines

About the only good thing the late unlamented News of the Screws did was come up with the headline:

Nudist Welfare Man's Model Wife Fell For Chinese Hypnotist From The Co-op Bacon Factory

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Coffee/keyboard

shining Example one subtitle

best one for a long time, if ever

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

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FAIL

Bullcrap

Your use is fine its effectively internal use.

These guys were making revenue and presumably a profit for by taking others work and flogging it onwards with absolutely no value add.

As the article says they were pure parasites and I have no sympathy for them.

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And you should maybe take a valium . . .

At what point is it public ? If I post something to my own, private, web-space making and giving no links to it, then surely thats private ??

What happens when Google (other search engines available) comes along with it's spider and scrapes all of that information - I didn't make it publicly accessible* but some monolithic corporation did (and will try to profit from it), is it now public because someone else made it easy to find ?

And what of something in meat-space, a book or piece of music, if I now digitise it can I use that in any way I deem ?? If not, why not, by your own argument it's public as it's available and therefore I should be able to do whatever I want with it.

Finally, the arbitrary car anaolgy. If I leave my car on the street, unlocked and with the keys in the ignition, does that mean it's ok for someone to come along and just take the car?

* unless you habitually go around typing random URLs into a browser, without my publishing the link it should be almost impossible to find it *without* a spider search.

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Silver badge

Your statement defeats itself.

The value added was that you didn't have to spend time checking all the sites yourself.

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FAIL

Historyfail

"Your arguments fall flat because you simply don't understand that the internet was designed as public by default"

History Fail

Arpanet and TCP/IP was designed for researchers, academics and the military. It was not designed to be used in an untrusted environment - which is why internet security sucks.

Take that valium laddie and stop making stuff up. You are beginning to sound deranged.

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FAIL

No

"All judges should be banned from ruling about anything whatsoever on the internet until they can demonstrate to a group of intelligent internet users they actually understand it."

You don't understand the ruling.

If you SELL on headlines to third parties, those customers need a license. Your license with the newspaper doesn't allow you to do this.

Christ, I hope you don't do anything important in your day job.

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Anonymous Coward

It's idiot day today

"You cannot post something on a public internet web server, and complain if someone views it "

It's not about viewing. It's about ....

SELLING

SOMETHING

THAT

ISN'T

YOURS

Got that? Are your trying to be today's dumbest AC?

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Alert

News International

"...pitched against all the UK's major newspaper groups except News International"

Guess they've got other, more pressing, issues to deal with currently!

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Holmes

If you scrape headlines...

...do the articles become zombies?

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Anonymous Coward

Somewhat in two minds about this.

Headlines are generally ment to be published so as to attract readers. So I while I see why it's an important tool of the trade, I don't really see why they'd have to have copyright. In this case, that attraction thing still functioned. Why did they protest having their headlines scraped? It would likely have resulted in more article views and associated ad showings. Much like happens when people peruse the RSS feeds that so many newspapers provide free of charge.

It wasn't like this outfit stole the headlines and put them on their own articles, was it? Didn't see the details in the article. Then again the newspapers probably felt that the company making money with their service was making money by showing off the headlines they wrote. Bit of a gut reaction, but anyway. Even five hundred quid per newspaper per year isn't that much for a reseller. But the reasoning is a bit, well, base in its appeal.

If it also applies to companies who've set up their own scraper --something a competent sysadmin does in an afternoon-- for internal use, then they might've just found themselves a nice little earner though I don't think they can fund even a whole extra hack with that revenue stream. Then again, the monies might mean that shops already doing the scraping for internal use might stop doing so entirely --dropping ad revenue-- or see themselves forced to sell the scraping result onward again --possibly increasing ad revenue for the papers again.

So, well, I don't know how it's going to pan out as I haven't the faintest how the cards lie in hacks & headlines land. 'Tis curious though, and looking at the walloon news outfits getting predictably thrown out of google entirely due to a court ruling they asked for themselves, I wouldn't be surprised if this bites them in the backside some way. We'll see, and in any case it's bound to become yet more fodder for the headline writer.

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Facepalm

Utterly retarded, more like

"In our business we need a system to scrape the headlines of news sites relevant to our industry so that we can flag them up to the sales guys as potential sales opportunities."

That's what many businesses need, and what they pay a small amount to get. Even a grand a year is less than a trip for one suit to go to a conference.

What you want is the service, but you don't want to pay for it. OK that's cool - there's nothing to stop you coding up your own site scraper for in-house use with a few lines of code.

If you don't write your own then pay up, monkey boy.

But don't make your laziness and ignorance into a moral right. We've seen right through you.

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Thumb Down

Wrong.

What the PRCA is objecting to is having to pay Meltwater (for the service) *AND* the NLA for a licence. In effect, a company using Meltwater's services pays the NLA twice, once for their own licence, and once (in effect) for Meltwater's.

If it was a VAT-style system, then all would be fine... i.e. "we have our own licence from NLA, so Meltwater can't charge us for the fraction of the licence they will charge us".

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Gold badge

What's a license fee?

If Meltwater pay for a single licence, then surely they shouldn't be able to share that licensed content outside their company (assuming that's the scope of the the license they bought). What they're selling is their software - as they have no right to sell on other people's content. Either that, or they should pay for a multi-user licence.

In the same way, if I buy a DVD I've paid for the right to watch the film, but I don't have the right to put on a public screening and charge for tickets. However I can do that, if I'm willing to pay the correct license (which costs a lot more).

So I assume all this ruling is really covering is that headlines also come under copyright, even though they're short. Which seems fair enough. They don't happen by magic. Papers pay people (sub-editors) to write the headlines - so it doesn't seem unfair that companies should own the rights to content they've had to pay to create.

I don't see why this should be controversial. If we want good stuff, we've got to have a way pay people to do it. Some people will always produce good stuff for the fun of doing it, and if they're willing to give that away for free, then hooray. However, they should also have the right to charge for it - and then in future they may produce more good stuff, because they can give up their day-job, and just produce good stuff. This is good for society (we get more good stuff), as well as being good for the people and companies who make it.

If as a society we reward production of the things we want, we'll get more of them. If we make it impossible to be rewarded for doing the things we want, then we shouldn't be surprised if we get less.

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Happy

... or these...

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2008/12/22/med_cables_cut_again/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/09/21/bae_struggles_to_escape_the_bloodhounds/

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Silver badge

Have to agree that the decision is questionable, and I haven't even looked

at the details. If headlines are now absolutely copyright protected, then Google need to stop including them in searches too, because Google is just a scraper on steroids. If there's some sort of safe harbor provision for Google, then we no longer have one law for all.

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WTF?

TV

So what about news programmes on TV, all of which have a section for going through what's in the papers? Will these now require a licence too (or do they already)?

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Joke

Yes

...you now have to watch TV through a tinfoil helmet.

Best not get our of bed, freetards.

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FAIL

@ TV

Nah - I can't imagine the BBC or ITV bothering to comply with all that copyright protection malarkey.

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Unhappy

Who is going to tell google?

One rule for the rich and powerful and a seperate one for everyone else.

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Bronze badge
Pint

"...headlines involve considerable skill in devising..."

As someone who often wound up having to write headlines (even though I was technically the editorial cartoonist) at my old college paper, I can testify to that. To crush the essence of a story into maybe seven or eight words in one or two lines took a lot more skill than most people think -- I was writing "tweets" a good thirty years before Twitter was invented.

Of course, my headline-writing skills pale in comparison to the headline geniuses at El Reg ("Cops Cuff Man For Burning Burning Man Man"), or the Weekly World News' simple, elegant and gloriously absurd early '80s classic, "WW2 Bomber FOUND ON MOON", or their 1994 masterpiece "JUPITER RADIOS EARTH FOR HELP".

It's also worth noting that this month saw the retirement of one of the New York Post's best-known headline writers, who penned the immortal "Headless Body In Topless Bar".

A tall cold one for the New York Post guy.

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Is Google paying up?

Looks like either Google needs to get a license, or it's already paid for its license.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Is Google paying up?

Perhaps. But it's not charging money for Google News.

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Silver badge

The answer:

Rather than just scraping headlines and sending extra traffic to newspapers for free, you launch a new service with a "special offer".

"With our new tracking service, we can increase the viewing figures of your site. Pay us £99 per year and we will intelligently index your headlines with a short flavour text, driving viewers to your articles and helping you to massively increase ad revenue. Sign up before the end of this year and you get your first year of service ABSOLUTELY FREE!"

There.

(also yes, isn't Google doing the same thing as Meltwater?)

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Pirate

headlines?

How about book titles? If I put together a list of <someobscurecategory> books, and put it up on my website *with ads!1!!* for fans of <someobscurecategory>, when the publishing houses notice they can say "hey look someone has come up with an inovative new way to make money, let's milk them to death with court cases and outrageous demands for fees". Book titles are hard to come up with, and if someone comes up with a way to make money from them, then that should be turned into less money so that some corporations can get their rightful cut, and then even less money as some oversized fee collecting bureaurocracy is set up and populated with useless hangers on.

When the whole point of headlines / book titles / sound recordings / video recordings in the first place was to entice people into lining up for the full experience, and they still perform that function nicely, but once the smell of money gets in the water the lawyers get into a frenzy and people start getting weird ideas that where headlines were once written for hire and then given away to anyone who would take one now they are some kind of works of art that nobody should be able to experience without paying a fee to a huge parade of middlemen.

The ridiculousness rolls on. Small wonder so many people tune out?

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Bronze badge

Please Explain

No doubt you are correct that these blagards were stealing your headlines, but you left the explanation of the theft out of your story.

I guess it was obvious to you, but those of us who aren't internet journalists are left wondering how reporting your headlines is theft. Why don't you want people to read you headlines?

Back when my city had afternoon newspapers, the publishers used to make up big headline posters for all outlets, so that people passing could see, for free, what the biggest headline was.

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Happy

I'd never steal your soles

Really.

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