COMMENT: EDITORIAL; Paying the full price of copying

The Newspaper Licensing Agency wants companies to pay for the privilege of copying articles even for internal consumption and is threatening legal action against those who do not comply.

The Newspaper Licensing Agency wants companies to pay for the privilege

of copying articles even for internal consumption and is threatening

legal action against those who do not comply.



There are several issues here, not least the NLA’s heavy-handed approach

to the issue. This has prompted worried calls to the IPR by members who

fear imprisonment or heavy fines for simply photocopying a newspaper

cutting.



In fairness, the newspapers which are backing the NLA, led by the

Telegraph, have been negotiating with the press cuttings agencies for

the introduction of a levy on copying for a long time. But there

appears to have been little or no consultation with the PR industry or

the client sector generally, which actually pays for the service in the

first place.



Then there is the question of what responsible PR people should do

about publications which are not part of the NLA, such as the News

International titles. Clearly they cannot call publications not covered

by the NLA levy and offer to pay every time they want to make a

photocopy. Yet, legally, it seems that they must.



No one is arguing with the right of publishers to protect their

copyright or to get some form of remuneration for the use of published

material where it is for commercial purposes rather than private

research. Though, undoubtedly this still remains a murky legal area.



The NLA argues that a two pence per copy charge is excellent value

compared with the full cover price which those making copies would

otherwise have to fork out. It also argues that it is providing the best

solution to a problem that has existed for many years - the illegal

copying of copyrighted material - in the form of a one-stop shop for

copyright.



But, not only is the levy which the NLA has set (currently two pence per

copy) an arbitrary figure arrived at with no consultation, but there is

no guarantee at all that it will not rise substantially as new

publishers join or existing members decide to tighten the screw.



Publishers and PR people exist in a state of inter-dependence -

according to an analysis by one City editor, some 30 per cent of the

stories in his newspaper were PR generated and that is not counting

those where PR still contributed. Business and industry already invests

millions of pounds in publishing through advertising revenue, should

those same companies or their PR agencies then have to pay for the

privilege of photocopying material they provided?



Still, as publishers ourselves we have to believe in the right of

publishers to be paid for the product they provide. PR agencies need the

media and this is one pill they will just have to swallow.



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