Newspaper Licensing Agency's David Pugh defends web licensing in panel

A panel of media and comms experts rounded on the Newspaper Licensing Agency's (NLA) managing director last night, a week before the body's landmark case on online news content is to be brought before the appeals court.

David Pugh: denies many publishers would be criminalised
David Pugh: denies many publishers would be criminalised

At a panel debate on ‘The Future of Content’ held at The British Library, the NLA’s David Pugh sat alongside Meltwater Group founder and CEO Jorn Lyseggen.

The two are set to appear in the Appeals Court next week as the PRCA fights against the High Court decision to enforce licensing of web news content on Meltwater.

In a judgement issued on 26 November, Mrs Justice Proudman ruled that web links taken from online news sources are protected by copyright law. The PRCA has appealed the decision.

Lyseggen said: ‘If you need a licence to open a link, it means thousands of people are in breach of the law. This is an incredibly important issue.’

PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham added: ‘The NLA is a private company as well as a licensing body. It makes money for its owners. I’ve no issue with that, but they ought to be up front about it.

‘None of us has any issues with paywalls – the issue I have is with them trying to have it both ways.’

Pugh responded: ‘The NLA is a private limited company and we’re here to make money for our owners. As for having it both ways, I’d like our publishers to have it more than two ways. The benefit of copyright is that it helps reward their investment by protecting against piracy.’

As Pugh looked on pensively, University of Cambridge professor of intellectual property law Lionel Bently added his own criticism, arguing that if the appeal is unsuccessful, many publishers would be criminalised.

‘The title of a film would be protected by copyright, which would mean that you couldn’t have things like listings magazines,’ argued Bently. ‘That would be absurd. This is not the way to go.’

Pugh denied that this would be the case, arguing that ‘the ruling should not be used that way.’

The debate was held by Meltwater Group and the PRCA, and was chaired by Management Today editor Matthew Gwyther. A keynote speech was given by Edelman global vice chairman and chief content officer Richard Sambrook.

The appeal case will take place between 15 and 17 June.

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