Newspaper Licensing Agency referred to Copyright Tribunal over 'unfair' fees for charities

Cutbot, a media monitoring company, says a small hedge fund pays less than a charity with a hundredth of the turnover

A media monitoring company has referred the Newspaper Licensing Agency’s pricing structure to the Copyright Tribunal because it says charities are required to pay "spectacularly unfair" fees.

UK charities pay a total of more than £1m a year to the NLA, which is owned by newspaper publishers representing 1,300 print and more than 1,000 web titles, for the right to copy newspaper articles in print or online form.

Cutbot, which provides media monitoring services in the form of online links to news stories, said the NLA’s pricing structure, which Cutbot said is based on the number of employees organisations have, was unfair on charities.

"This fee regime is spectacularly unfair because a small hedge fund pays less for a licence than a charity with a hundredth of the hedge fund’s turnover but more staff, even though they receive the same number of links by email," said James Mackenzie, Cutbot’s commercial director.

Mackenzie said the licensing regime should be based on whether an organisation exists to make a profit rather than the headcount, which would effectively exempt charities from the fees.

The Copyright Tribunal is expected to hold a preliminary consideration of the evidence next month with the case to be heard in full in the autumn. 

It has the power to decide which organisations should pay for licences and whether fees are fair and reasonable.

Cutbot said that if any charity wanted to support its case and object to the fees, they had until the end of the month to lodge their interest with the tribunal.

"We could use charities’ help to support our case," said Mackenzie.

The case will only consider arguments against online licensing fees but, if successful, could establish a precedent which applies to print licences in the future, according to Vicky Browning, director of CharityComms, which has been campaigning for the NLA to scrap fees for charities.

"We believe the NLA’s fee structure is unfair, complicated and expensive and we welcome any moves to make it fairer and more transparent, particularly any outcome that lifts the fee burden from charities," she said.

"Switching the basis of charging from an organisation’s headcount to its profitability would achieve that, as long as the principle is applied to print copying fees as well as the online case."

In March, the NLA offered to give discounts of up to £390 a year to charities but, according to CharityComms, large charities are still paying about £10,000 a year for a licence.

The NLA had previously argued that when a link to a news story is clicked through an email, the story is cached on the user's computer using cookies, effectively making a copy.

Nobody at the NLA was available for comment.

 

Ian Griggs recommends

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