The PRCA has a long history of defending the industry against the NLA's practices.
Recently, we criticised the NLA for its corporate greed following its communications with practitioners during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The NLA has been contacting practitioners who are not subscribed to a NLA licence and it reiterates that it will continue to collect fees and reprimand people for sharing copyrighted material without a licence. The NLA intends to conduct 'business as usual' during these difficult times when practitioners are struggling. PRCA Director General, Francis Ingham MPRCA described the contents of this letter as 'insensitive' and urged the NLA to stop attacking the industry.
The PRCA also won a landmark decision at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in June 2015 that affirmed the right of internet users to browse online freely without the threat of infringing copyright law. The CJEU accepted all of the arguments of the PRCA and Meltwater against those arguments put forward by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA), that browsing and viewing articles online does not require authorisation from the copyright holder. The decision is binding and comes in the wake of a protracted legal action in the UK courts that began in 2010.
The PRCA will continue to challenge the NLA and defend the industry. If you have been contacted by the NLA or have any questions please get in touch with Neha.Khatwani@prca.org.uk.
On 1st April, 2020 the PRCA criticised the NLA for its insensitive communication with practitioners and for targeting practitioners who don't have a NLA licence. The NLA's letter emphasised that it would continue to conduct business as usual during these unprecedented times and it will continue collecting fees from organisations who share copyrighted material without a licence.
The communication draws specific attention to “Placing articles (including headlines and text extracts) on your corporate website/social media channels”, presumably a reference to people sharing information related to COVID-19 news.
Responding, Director General Francis Ingham MPRCA, commented:
“The NLA’s assertion that it is ‘business as usual’ is probably the most insensitive message I’ve ever seen from them - and that’s in quite the crowded field. It is not business as usual for anyone in the PR industry or indeed in the world.
"I’m sure that many people are indeed sharing content that they wouldn’t normally share. But these are not normal times - this is the biggest health crisis in a hundred years. The NLA would therefore be well advised to call off their call centre attack dogs.
"This period has brought out the best in companies and the worst in companies. Some have responded with compassion, understanding, and flexibility, putting profit to one side. Others have responded exactly in this business as usual; let’s squeeze every penny out of misfortune manner. The NLA sadly fall into the latter camp. They should be ashamed of themselves. And should simply stop.”
NLA letter extract:
Please find below information regarding newspaper and magazine copyright.
NLA media access is a publisher owned copyright licensing and database business providing access to and licensing the re-use of publishers' content. The full list of titles we represent can be found here.
We are contacting you to ascertain whether any of the activities listed below take place within your organisation as you do not currently hold a copyright licence.
During the current conditions that we find ourselves in, we recognise that every business will face their own unique challenges as they focus on the safety of their people and the continuity of their operations.
It goes without saying we all hope as many businesses as possible survive these unprecedented times, with the economy still healthy, and by trying to conduct business as usual we hope the wheels will keep on turning for everyone. From an NLA perspective we are striving to continue to meet our requirements as a regulated body, and to collect the royalties on behalf of our publishers, to keep their industry supported also. As a regulated Collection Management Organisation (CMO), 80% of the fees we collect go back to publishers, who will certainly be more grateful than ever if it means they can keep publishing and delivering up to date news.
Activities that require a licence
• Circulation of newspaper or magazine articles (including headlines and text extracts) by email within a company
• Copying of articles onto internal computer drives
• Scanning of newspaper or magazine articles
• Digitally copying articles from a newspaper or magazine’s website
• Printing from a newspaper or magazine website
• Articles accessed, saved or copied via your media monitoring service or PR agency
• Copying of content supplied by your public relations agency
• Photocopying of newspaper or magazine articles
• Placing articles (including headlines and text extracts) on your corporate website/social media channels
Click here for an overview of NLA and end user licences.
For further clarification on NLA media access and licensing you can contact the following organisation: The Intellectual Property Website - (supported and sponsored by the Patent Office)
What next? I would be grateful if you would look into this matter so your licensing requirements can be determined. I will contact you again shortly to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter and we wish you and those around you good health at this difficult time.
· What is the NLA?
The NLA is a publisher-owned rights licensing and publisher services business. They work on behalf of the UK’s newspaper and magazine publishers and licence organisations to make paper and digital copies of newspaper, magazine, and news website content.
· Do I need a NLA licence?
Generally speaking, most PR practitioners will require a NLA licence. If you are sharing copyrighted material internally or externally then you will most likely need a licence.
· Which licence will I need?
Here are the most common licensing arrangements for practitioners:
1. Standard Business licence (covering copying and distribution of articles within your organisation).
3. Web End User licence (if you receive news alerts and links to online newspaper articles directly from a media monitoring service).
4. Corporate Website Republishing licence (if you post headlines, text extracts and PDF files on your corporate sites and via social media).
Please note, that it is important for clients to be covered by licensing agreements as well. Generally speaking, clients will be covered by the Public Relations licence or the PR Client Service licence if they are receiving content from their PR agencies. However, if they decide to share copyrighted content internally, they will require a Standard Business Licence. If they decide to share articles externally on their website or their social media channels, they will require a Corporate Website Republishing Licence. Finally, clients will need a Web End User licence if they receive news alerts and links to online articles from a media monitoring service.
- Which titles are covered by the NLA?
You can find an updated list here.
- What does the Court of Justice of the European Union judgment against the NLA mean for the PR industry?
This judgment is pivotal to our entire case against the arguments advanced by lawyers for the NLA, but it is by no means the end of the process.
To explain the situation, let’s go back to the two NLA licences that this judgment relates to, that cover the sharing of online links: the Web Developer Licence (WDL), which charges media monitoring agencies like Meltwater for sharing links with their clients; and the Web End User Licence (WEUL), which requires PR agencies and in-house teams to pay for the links that they receive from those monitoring firms.
The CJEU judgment means that the NLA cannot copyright online content, when a link is clicked on. But the judgment does not – and never attempted to - cover the sharing of digital links by email – this is still covered by copyright law. So, while there are implications for the WEUL, the WDL is unaffected by the judgment.
This ruling opens the way for media monitoring companies to create new service models with innovative digital formats that can get around the WEUL – we encourage them to do so. For instance, they may launch a web portal which features links to coverage, rather than sending an email listing the coverage.
The NLA might attempt to deal with this by increasing its fees to Meltwater and other media monitoring firms for the WDL – fees which the media monitoring companies might feel compelled to pass on to end users. But if the NLA were to attempt such a manoeuvre, we would respond in as forthright a manner as we have in the past. We have saved the industry millions in licensing fees, as the Copyright Tribunal forced the NLA to lower its proposed prices by 90%.
But it is important to point out that the NLA’s suggestion that they can somehow work around this judgment is absurd. They cannot ignore the ruling of the court by increasing fees to media monitoring companies – fees that will be passed on to the end users.
If they attempt to do so, we will once again take them to the Copyright Tribunal for attempting to bill too much.
International technology and IP specialists Bird and Bird observed: “From an industry perspective, the decision will have interesting implications for the NLA's licences (which were the origin of the dispute). These currently require a payment by end users for acts which do not require a licence as a result of this decision."
However, while negotiations are ongoing, the PRCA advises its members to continue paying their fees – for the time being.