Copyright Licensing Agency rebuffs PRCA call for meeting over "unjustified" arrangements

The Copyright Licensing Agency, which covers UK business magazine clippings, has sidestepped an invitation by the PRCA to the CLA board to explain its "confusing and unjustified" new licence to its members.

Content Licensing Agency: licence costs between £150 and £1,480
Content Licensing Agency: licence costs between £150 and £1,480

The PRCA issued the call after canvassing its members for their views on the Trial Media Consultancy Licence, which was brought in by the CLA in November and covers magazines such as New Scientist, New Statesman and Property Week.

The new licence is an add-on to the CLA’s existing Business Licence and allows comms agencies to make and send copies of articles or news items to their clients without risking copyright infringement. The licence also covers media monitoring agencies that send weblinks and content to PR agencies.

It costs between £150 and £1,480 a year, depending on the number of clippings a PR company wishes to share, and can cost more if the number of clippings used exceeds 12,500 a year.

The CLA instead invited PRCA members to give "feedback" to its business and government account manager, Andrew Green, who is responsible for developing the licence.

The PRCA's survey of 69 of its corporate members showed only half had been contacted by the CLA about the trial licence and, of these, 77 per cent said they did not understand it and 87 per cent did not think it was fair.

All 69 respondents were asked if they felt the fees were justified, of which 79 per cent thought they were not.

When the 69 members were asked how they rated dealing with the CLA, a majority gave the agency just four out of ten.

One member, Mark Stringer, founder of Pretty Green, said: "Quite frankly it's a ridiculous situation whereby agencies are being asked to pay for something that in many instances they've helped journalists develop. Ultimately, sharing coverage benefits the whole industry, not just agencies. We need more unity and a partnership approach on copyright issues, not ones that are divisive and ill thought-through."

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham said the CLA needed to explain the new fee arrangements to its members.

He said: "The PRCA has a duty to represent the issues and concerns of its members. Many members are concerned by the Trial Media Consultancy Licence, and we challenge the CLA’s board to sit down with us and our members to justify this new licence."

The CIPR said it was also canvassing the opinion of its members, ahead of the end of the trial period of the licence this November.

Andy Ross, public relations and policy manager at the CIPR, said: "Our members share the institute’s view that media outlets have the right to protect their copyright but that there should be a more direct and simpler approach to remuneration. However, we are also firm in the belief that the public relations profession does not exist to support the publishing business."

The CLA said it developed the licence after surveying the PR firms it works with and finding that 97 per cent sent press cuttings to clients during any one year.

A CLA spokesman said: "The results of this survey, along with the licence terms, were sent to the PRCA before we launched the TMCL with an invitation for feedback, however we have not yet received any direct response.

"We welcome an open dialogue with the industry and have stated since the launch of the TMCL that the licence would be subject to a period of review until November 2014. After this point we will make decisions on how best to conduct further discussions with industry bodies and practitioners."

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