The Newspaper Licensing Authority (NLA) is to launch a fresh legal
action against Marks and Spencer (M&S) following the retailer’s victory
in the Court of Appeal over cuttings copyright.
The ruling, which overturned a High Court verdict from January 1999,
said that M&S had not infringed typographical arrangement copyright by
circulating single articles since these were not a ’substantial’ part of
the whole publication. This means M&S does not need a licence from the
NLA and will take back licence fees from a joint account which had been
set aside pending the outcome.
While important, the result is only a partial victory for M&S: the Court
of Appeal judges expressed the opinion that the retailer’s actions in
copying the material went beyond what was required to report current
events to staff. These views could be significant in subsequent actions
between the two parties.
And the legal ping-pong will continue when the NLA challenges the Court
of Appeal ruling in the House of Lords. NLA chief executive Anthony
Rentoul also promised further legal action based on underlying literary
The NLA will argue that, unless a cutting is written by a freelance
journalist, a company without an NLA licence will be infringing
copyright by distributing it.
But Cheri Lofland, director of communications at M&S, was sceptical
about the new action: ’If they are so certain about literary copyright,
why have they left it so long?’
Rentoul responded that proving an infringement of underlying literary
copyright will be a more time-consuming process since it involves
establishing authorship of all articles.
Rentoul also blasted M&S’s press statement recording the most recent
result as ’grossly misleading’ and ’a travesty of the court’s
M&S vigorously denied the claims.