Long, slow commercial suicide

Update @ 18:00: The Irish Times argues out of both sides of its mouth, as it says

“We recognise that linking is the lifeblood of the online world and we encourage our digital community to share links as widely as possible. Therefore, The Irish Times does not see links as copyrightable and will not attempt to impose any restrictions on the posting elsewhere on the Internet of mere URLs that refer to its content.”

Yay!  But wait, there’s more.  It also says in the very same press release that it supports

 “the NNI position that copyright over newspaper content should be protected.”

And NNI are the crowd who lobbied government in summer 2012 to have links declared copyrightable…

Well – at least the Irish Times has adopted a public position, even if it’s a contradictory, illogical and indefensible one.  Nothing at all from any of the other print media outlets…

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Update @ 14:30: But the NNI misses the opportunity to say “Oops, yeah, dunno what the NLI (the other organisation using this same Ballsbridge address) that we own were thinking.  Look, we’ll tell them to cop the hell on.  Sorry about that.”

Instead, they release a statement (on the horrible mess of a website designed by Cullen Communications, the PR agency that also shares the same Ballsbridge address with NNI and NLI) saying “Look, leave us alone.  You’re misrepresenting us. You bullies.  We never meant individuals. And… it’s confusing.  But you’re wrong, and the law is on our side, even though it can’t be because we’re still looking to have it changed to say that we’re allowed charge you for weblinks like we’re trying to do already!  Signed: Ludd”

Hmm. Wait a second. Do they own copyright on that link I just posted…?

Yeah. Looks like it’s time for a boycott…

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Update @ 14:15: And after Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) appeared on Morning Ireland, Hugh Linehan (@hlinehan) tweeted:

“Irishtimes.com links to other sites all the time and we don’t believe we need a licence to do so. So it would be absurd to argue the reverse in relation to others linking to us.”

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The international media – traditional and “new”, but not Irish – have taken the latest post from McGarr Solicitors’ dealings with Newspaper Licensing Ireland and run with it.  For those not familiar with this – NLI is owned by National Newspapers Ireland. Which counts all of the major national and local newspapers as members.  NLI collects licence fees from clippings agencies.  Now they also want to start collecting money from people, or organisations such as Women’s Aid, who publish a weblink to a story on one of their members’ websites.

€300 a time. Not for re-publishing an article, or a summary, or an excerpt. Just for linking to the article.  Like the way I just linked to the Womens’ Aid website, above.  Despite the fact that pretty much every newspaper that’s a member of NNI – and therefore an owner of NLI – publishes terms and conditions on their websites saying, explicitly, yes, you have permission to link to us (as if permission was needed anyway).  Despite the fact that most newspapers with an online presence have prominent “link to/share this story” buttons, allowing a one-click share of the URL to Facebook, Twitter, et al. (In the case of the Irish Times, it’s publishing 300 such “share this!” buttons!)  Despite the fact that it’s not a big deal for any website publisher to intercept ‘deep links’ and redirect them to their home page, if they so desire.  Despite the fact that the story I’ll be paying to link to will quite often contain a link itself, for which the newspaper hasn’t paid.

As hardcopy newspaper sales continue to fall, more online advertising needs to be sold by them. To keep rates high, they need traffic.  To get traffic, ideally they need lots of inbound links to their stories.  So – they’re going to charge me €300 for linking to this inanity?  How does that work, exactly?

Obviously, it doesn’t.

Consider, for a moment, the stupidity – or even insanity – of this position. That’s like me being stopped on the street to be asked for directions to a pub – only for the pub owner to then chase after me to charge for business being sent his way!

Don’t just take my word for it, though. You can contact NLI yourself to ask them about this. Just don’t use any punctuation whatsoever in their web form or it won’t work.

I was going to email them to get an address where I can rat people out, you see.  I saw Conor Pope linking to an online Irish Times article the other day, and Irish Times trustee, UCD Professor of Computer Science Barry Smyth, admits to linking to newspapers occasionally in his Daily Trawl.  Obviously, every journalist with an online presence should be paying for all of those links they publish on Twitter, too.  I reckon at a modest 10% bounty, I could make a few bob on the side…

Or maybe not.

Now – if only there was a way for lots of people in Ireland to collectively get the message out that maybe NLI are being a bit stupid.  And/or their owners are being a bit incompetent in not reining them in, rapidly.  And that maybe we should stop buying their print versions and visiting their online versions until such time as they have copped on and apologised to Women’s Aid.  And that maybe they should send a donation their way, too.  What’d that take, I wonder – a drop of a couple of thousand sales in a week, and a couple of thousand website visitors?

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