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2012: The year Irish newspapers tried to destroy the web

The Irish Times

This is not a joke.

I have started with that clarification, because as you read this you will find yourself asking “Is this some kind of a joke?” I thought I would be helpful and put the answer right up at the start, so you can refer back to it as often as you require.

This year the Irish newspaper industry asserted, first tentatively and then without any equivocation, that links -just bare links like this one– belonged to them. They said that they had the right to be paid to be linked to. They said they had the right to set the rates for those links, as they had set rates in the past for other forms of licensing of their intellectual property. And then they started a campaign to lobby for unauthorised linking to be outlawed.

These assertions were not merely academic positions. The Newspaper Industry (all these newspapers) had its agent write out demanding money. They wrote to Women’s Aid, (amongst others) who became our clients when they received letters, emails and phone calls asserting that they needed to buy a licence because they had linked to articles in newspapers carrying positive stories about their fundraising efforts.
These are the prices for linking they were supplied with:

1 – 5 €300.00
6 – 10 €500.00
11 – 15 €700.00
16 – 25 €950.00
26 – 50 €1,350.00
50 + Negotiable

They were quite clear in their demands. They told Women’s Aid “a licence is required to link directly to an online article even without uploading any of the content directly onto your own website.”

Recap: The Newspapers’ agent demanded an annual payment from a women’s domestic violence charity because they said they owned copyright in a link to the newspapers’ public website.

This isn’t the case of a collection agent going rogue.

The National Newspapers of Ireland is the representative body for Irish Newspaper Publishers. The 15 member titles in the NNI are

  • Irish Independent
    Irish Examiner
    The Irish Times
    Irish Daily Star
    Evening Herald
    The Sunday Independent
    Sunday World
    The Sunday Business Post
    Irish Mail on Sunday
    Irish Farmers Journal
    Irish Daily Mail
    Irish Daily Mirror
    Irish Sun
    Irish Sunday Mirror
    The Sunday Times
    Irish Sun Sunday

In their submission to the Copyright Review Committee in July 2012 those 15 newspapers asserted baldly

“It is the view of NNI that a link to copyright material does constitute infringement of copyright”. (Section 7 National Newspapers of Ireland Further Submission to the Copyright Review Committee)

Women’s Aid received their demand from Newspaper Licensing Ireland Ltd (NLI), a collection agent for the Newspaper publishers. Here’s what that agent has to say about the status of links to newspaper websites:

“It is the view of NLI that a link to copyright material does constitute infringement of copyright”
(Page 5, Newspaper Licensing Ireland Ltd Further Submission to the Copyright Review Committee)

The National Newspapers of Ireland describes the relationship with NLI like this:

Newspaper Licensing Ireland Ltd (NLI) is a dedicated collecting society that represents the copyright interests of Irish national and regional newspaper publications, including National Newspapers of Ireland.

The National Newspapers of Ireland and Newspaper Licensing Ireland both have the same address; Clyde Lodge, 15 Clyde Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Given this congruence, it is unrealistic to treat Newspaper Licensing Ireland’s demands and assertions as something separate or distinct from the demands of the Newspaper industry itself.

Every one of those 15 newspaper titles- and all the regional titles who are members of Newspaper Licensing Ireland- have endorsed the proposition that they have rights over links to their websites. Furthermore they want an explicit change in the law to back up their demands for money if you link to their websites.

Here’s what the NNI say:

“NNI proposes that, in fact, any amendment to the existing copyright legislation with regard to deep-linking should specifically provide that deep-linking to content protected by copyright…is unlawful.”
(Section 7 National Newspapers of Ireland Further Submission to the Copyright Review Committee)

Here’s a test. Ask any of the Editors of any of those newspapers listed above the following question. “Do you accept that people have the right to link to any page on your website?” Ask them online, or at a public meeting, perhaps. They will hotly respond by answering a question they haven’t been asked. They will say that they have always given people permission to link to their websites, when asked.

Here’s the NLI’s protest:

“on every occasion that NLI has been approached by a third party seeking to licence a form of copying or transmission not covered by any of our existing standard licences, we have sought to find a solution to that company’s requirement.”
(Page 1, Newspaper Licensing Ireland Further Submission to the Copyright Review Committee)

Here’s the Editor of, Hugh Linehan:

Both the above statements are worded to maintain the position that linking to newspaper websites is within the grace and favour of newspapers to grant- or by implication to refuse. And, by further implication, to charge for if they so wish. You can see the kind of prices they’re thinking of, above.

None of this has received any coverage in any newspaper for sale in Ireland. Not a drop of ink has been used to report on the print media’s lobbying to have their assertion of copyright over links written into legislation, in any Irish newspaper.

You can read about this story in the New York Observer,on Techcrunch, on Techdirt or, if you prefer not to look to the international press you can turn to Michael McDowell’s news source of choice But, apparently, it isn’t a story for Irish newspapers.

The web is built on links. Links are what has made it so powerful and so threatening to established institutions of power.

Here’s Tim Berners-Lee, writing on Links and Law Myths in April 1997 under the heading Myth One

Myth: A normal link is an incitement to copy the linked document which infringes copyright.

The ability to refer to a document (or a person or any thing else) is in general a fundamental right of free speech to the same extent that speech is free. Making the reference with a hypertext link is more efficient but changes nothing else.

I received a mail message asking for “permission” to link to our site. I refused as I insisted that permission was not needed.

There is no need to have to ask before making a link to another site.

In 2012, Irish newspapers- The Irish Times, The Irish Independent and all the others- are trying to make this myth a reality here.

This is not the story of a rogue agent.

This is the story of a rogue industry.

UPDATE: You can read some reaction (and confirmation) of the above here. Features Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen, Boing Boing and others. Does not feature any coverage from any Irish newspaper as there has been none.



  1. By their logic, surely they will be pursuing google for a large sum of money very soon because google posts literally hundreds, if not thousands, of links to their websites “without asking first”. Not only this, but googles cache’ing mechanisms would be violating their copyright.

    This is indeed, a rogue industry.

  2. By that same rational….. Do the newspapers intend to pay for each link to an advertisers site that they host? Possibly ending up paying more for the traffic they drive to advertisers sites than they receive for hosting links in the first place? Surely they’re killing their own revenue model. Also…. This is ludicrous, I was under the impression that the people who pay to advertise in wide circulation papers would rather there are more people visiting the sites rather than the papers legal depts chasing “deep link” offenders… So bloody Irish…

  3. It’s not clear from your article whether NNI are asserting copyright to non-clickable links?
    For example, if I write in a printed publication that there’s an interesting article “on page 12 of today’s Irish Times”, is that not a de facto link?

  4. Excuse me, but I just realised that I may have accidentally put a “link” in my previous comment!
    To protect myself from a possible 300 Euro liability, I must now state that there is NO interesting article on Page 12 of the Irish times, nor indeed on any other page, and in fact I must urge you never to look at that newspaper at all!

  5. Is this some kind of a joke?

  6. only time i read Irish papers now is when some one puts a link up and i click on it. don’t go out of my way to read them. seems a bit foolish, how do they think something like this will get me to see their advertisements. if they want to shoot themselves in the foot then let them.

  7. Indeed! And the Industry in France and Germany are going a step further trying to make Google Pay. Even though Google doesn’t really show their content, plus they can opt out, plus if someone clicks on an ad, they really choosing to ignore the Newspapers website.

    So pleased to read this post – McGarr are really playing a strong hand with this article.

  8. I say let them shoot themselves in the foot and make it law. People will stop linking to them, their traffic will drop and they will lose out on easy advertising incoming from the lost page views. Eventually the dinosaurs will either have to admit charging for linking to their content is silly and/or they will just get replaced by a better news site who isn’t trying to charge the wrong people for their content. Basically, don’t bite the hand that links to you.

    IMO they are not destroying the internet, they are just using the internet to destroy themselves. 🙂

  9. Oh my god… pay for linking to an article! As a Search Engine Optimizer this makes me disturbed. They should think why the content is available for free on their website in the first place. They react the opposite as to how they should, they should be happy traffic is generated to their sites so they get higher in Google and earn more on advertisements. They turn the world upside down. They think in old fashioned printed media ways. These newspapers probably have no idea what the world wide web is, a collection of links to pages with information. Without links there would be no internet. If they want no one to see their content or only paid than get off the internet or hide them under a paid barrier for your customers, cause heck that will probably be a great business model (so not). I”d say be happy for every link they can get cause every single one of them brings extra visitors, being able to get higher income on advertisements or advertorials. If they continue with this and links need to be paid… I’d hope Google would ban these newspaper websites entirely from their search engine, as well as the public, draining their add income extensively, maybe than they will see what the internet is about

  10. OFC, the commercial logic is flawed.

    Newspaper publishers have the right to assert their copyright on their content. They could even assert copyright on the links themselves – they created the link to their website in a unique manner – it does indeed belong to them.

    Clearly the NLI initiative is not about asserting copyright, but rather about collecting legitimate revenues on the basis of those copyrights. Think IMRO for the newspaper industry.

    So with the correct focus on this as a discussion on the commercials of online news sites, then as Darren and David have alluded to in the comments, the ramifications are much wider for the newspaper industry.

    Are search engines or directories exempt from this approach? If not and such a commercialisation of deep-links became the norm, then one of two things will happen:
    – search engines would fail: they simply could not pay for every link they make to any website where the owner asserts copyright on the link
    – online newspapers would fail: far more likely to happen as search engines and everyone else would simply ignore this sector and redirect their attention to high quality alternatives

    If you don’t believe the latter point, then check what happened when the Irish Times introduced their paywall. The largest online news properties in the Irish market became all but redundant and then within a few short years removed the paywall again.

    Is the NLI asserting these commercial interests with ALL websites that deep link their members’ sites? If they are not taking on the big boys – Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter etc. – in the same way that they are taking on individuals, voluntary organisations and small businesses, then there is a much bigger ethical issue here.

  11. So the newspapers would prefer that I don’t link to articles (which are often regurgitated press-releases) that they have published – fine, I’ll just link to other sources instead? Like the new press-release distribution service that will spring up to replace the newspapers as they go into commercial free-fall.

  12. This would be laughable if it were not for other half-cocked attempts at censorship by people who are forming expensive Oireachtas committees to regulate social-media etc.

    I get my news elsewhere now, finding our media incapable of discourse on current issues.Years of reducing ‘analysis’ to ‘commentation’, and dilution of ‘culture’ to create ‘entertainment’ has left me alienated from the majority of media here.

    In other words, if news agencies require payment, then the product requires overhaul because it ill-provides what it claims to do.

    Media is become dominated by ads/entertainment , there is barely anything approaching intelligent discourse on current issues – including censorship, available to the reader. Dumbing-down is not the word for it.

    Dear Media :
    If you want a competitive product , then up your game and stop blaming the world for going elsewhere to hear/read about current issues.

    + stop intimidating charities for personal profit ffs

  13. I believe a proper response would be to send the newspapers a bill every time they publish a story about you or your organisation.

    What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  14. Nice suicide note from the Irish papers. All we need now is a web-only publication (preferably run by someone with a clue), and we can say goodnight to the Neanderthal press.

    If they don’t want to be linked to, then let’s make their day!

  15. Let them. Let them insist that anybody linking to them has to acquire a license.

    They’ve not thought this through really have they?

    No link -> no google, bing, no organic traffic, no facebook traffic, no twitter traffic, no trafic, period.

    “What was that?”
    “That was the Irish newspapers vanishing off the internet”
    “Good riddance”

  16. I presume then that all of the publications in question have sought prior approval and paid upfront fees for all of the material that they link to from their pages. Of course they have! Pah!

    There is an easy way for organisations that take such a precious view of “their” content. Just block unauthorised referrers, and whitelist those that have paid the appropriate fees.

    Oh, you might lose a little of your traffic … and your ad revenue … but you’ll make it up on all those juicy link fees. So that’s just dandy, isn’t it?

  17. Sounds like no one here values copyright. Content has been too free for too long. If you value what you read you should pay for the right. Journalism isn’t a charity.

  18. Isn’t a hyperlink just a formalised way of referring to something? That is, a machine readable way of pointing and saying ‘that thing over there’?

    As such, if this ‘linking law’ idea becomes mainstream, I look forward to people asserting that you need a license in order to refer to something or point at it, per occurence – that would make journalism entirely impossible, as the subjects of enquiry could simply refuse to license the ability to talk about them, or set their prices unreasonably high.

  19. Sounds like somebody needs to explain to the Irish Newspaper Industry that a link is literally a written request for permission to view content. If they would like to refuse it all they need to do is configure their servers to do so.

    This is beyond stupid.

  20. Any money spent on this by any paper would have been far better spent in an attempt to establish their site as a reliable source.

    Unless they’re getting a raw deal on their hosting costs I cannot imagine a reason why anybody would actively want to discourage traffic.

  21. Extrapolating, sections in published materials, essays including references, notes, concordence(s?) & the pages of their referral are all criminal acts not to mention telephone/mobile conversations: To fill out an [anything] application go to and press “form” button… or sharing a link to a good coupon offer, amongst many other examples.

  22. Nuts, absolutely nuts. Ok, publishers aren`t really good in the internet business. Therefor, they most likely don`t know that links pointing to their sites are quite essential for traffic – one important part of SEO is linkbuilding and direct referrals as well. As consequence, if people start _not_ linking and de-linking their sites, they will fall back within Google´s natural search. Ooops. To be honest, if you take a look at what happens to publishers, they won`t stand a chance with mediocre or exchangeable content against thousands of specialised blogs, portals and communities.

    Only high-class magazines like the Economist with real good journalism offer a better value than what you get on the web for free. Not only free but sometimes just better than Wikipedia-copying journalists.

    By the way, the Belgian publishers had tried something similar stupid. They wanted to charge Google for being listed with their content. Google de-listed the sites, traffic and therefor ad-income crumbled. Soon, the publishers were very cooperative and kindly asked to forget the mess….


  23. Brendan wrote: “Sounds like no one here values copyright. Content has been too free for too long. If you value what you read you should pay for the right. Journalism isn’t a charity.”


    That’s the sound of whole discussion going way over Brendan’s head

  24. If the Irish newspapers wish to do this, they can configure their servers to return 404 for all incoming links that don’t include a paid-for license key in the query collection. Unauthorised use of a license key is already a breach of copyright. This would, of course, largely cut them off from the open Web and reduce their traffic.

  25. It is, of course, absurd to suggest that linking to a web site should require permission.

    If the owner of a web site does not want certain content to be freely available then it is up to them to configure their web servers accordingly.

  26. What if the link was actually a link to the Google redirect url (it just redirects the query to the URL mentioned in its data input)
    Google doesn’t publish these as they technically only exist during the time of the click, and you are linking to a Google service and not the newspaper

    Or what about URL shortening tools like Again, you are not linking to the newspaper site as the link is to to, but the data sent in that link results in the query being forwarded

    Of course the best option is to simply not link to them at all and watch them disappear

  27. So, following the newspapers’ line of logic, the next step would be, is that you would be infringing copyright if you passed on your newspaper to another person…? However, anything contained in either the newspaper or the link would be containing advertising, along with giving credit – and thus publicity – for that newspaper/magazine, would it not?
    So, in fairness, the newspapers should be charged by those who are spreading their articles and advertising…;-)

  28. There is a sensible (and legal) way around this.

    Instead of linking to a newspaper story, write an ‘abstract’ of the story, and publish it on your own site, with a full (non-linking) attribution.

    This is ‘fair use’ under international copyright agreements, and is not plagiarism, if a full attribution is given.

    No-one should EVER link to an Irish newspaper site under ANY circumstances. If they wish to remain invisible, we should respect that, and if a link is desired, find the story in another (non-Irish) newspaper site, and link to that.

    That way, the law is satisfied and everyone will be happy.

  29. @Brendan
    “They could even assert copyright on the links themselves – they created the link to their website in a unique manner – it does indeed belong to them. ” ??????
    They don’t create links. Links are created by others (and can be copyrighted by the link creators). Yes, their content is copyrighted. So what? All a link does is point to content. All they are trying to do is add a little income to their coffers. It has nothing to do with copyright. They can easily refuse connections to their servers. (Then wait. Last one out, turn off the lights)

  30. This is purely the last gasp of the print industry before the Internet finishes what it started. I worked for a city newspaper and it was evident they were not doing well at all, finding any way to generate more revenue.

    Though going the route of the music industry, meaning screwing with everything else instead of fixing your core business model, is a bad way to go. If they think industry giants and long standing web practices will go away because they think they should be paid for it, they are sadly mistaken.

  31. It is nice to see the newspaper industry taking action again. Too bad that action is putting yet another nail in it’s own coffin. Great job NNI!!!

  32. Just noticed that there are two Brendans commenting here.

    Everyone rightly disagrees with the second one (which is not me).

    @Brendan2, noone here disagrees with a publisher’s right to assert copyright on original content.

    However, this debate is not about copyright, but about commercial interests and how they are exercised.

    Clearly the approach being taken by the Irish newsprint industry is not going to work.

  33. So, if I post a comment with a link would they charge me or the website publishers?

    To charge me they would have to gain my personal details from the sites publishers which I’m presuming would require some kind of legal action. If they were to charge the publishers then you could put a website out of business in a matter of minutes by flooding their comments system (if unmoderated) with link after link.

    This idea has been thought up by someone in the industry that doesn’t actually know how the web works but hates it for destroying a once great media type.

    I’ve worked with lots of them over the years and there’s still a few left.

  34. *slaps head*
    Links give you traffic
    Traffic gives you readers
    Readers get you advertisers
    Advertisers give you revenue.

    Someone must have misunderstood a part of that equation. This seems beyond crazy.

    We welcome links. Please feel free to link to anytime!

  35. Missing part of the point… URL’s are rented, not owned. Their address is not able to be copyrighted. A person can secure their home, but the street address is not a protected item… so the use of a URL is not able to be protected. It is the right of the newspaper to make all visitors go away or have the visitor pay if they want, but charging for using a public reference to a URL that they do not own seems unreasonable. The best question is not if the newspapers have a right to protect their materials, but do the newspapers have a right to charge people that use a URL that the newspapers do not own?

  36. Hmmm…. If I copywrite my email address, can I charge people who send me junk email?????

  37. So what happens if I buy one of these newspapers, read it, and then give it away for free? Will the newspapers then try to sue me because I am giving away revenue?

  38. So they want to reduce readership. no issues. Where do I mail an audio of me laughing for 15 minutes?

  39. The outrage here would be justified if there was anything to be outraged about. Sadly for you and your argument, this is not the case. The publications are merely concerned with preserving their copyright against the attacks of ‘news aggregators’, who simply take copyrighted content and republish it without permission, attribution or payment. That is the real problem here, not linking.

  40. @Eddie wrote “The publications are merely concerned with preserving their copyright against the attacks of ‘news aggregators’, who simply take copyrighted content and republish it without permission, attribution or payment.”

    Not so, Eddie. Read the original story. THEN respond.

  41. “A normal link is an incitement to copy the linked document which infringes copyright.”

    Not to mention the fact that in some countries, copying online contents is not illegal in the first place.

  42. You know there’s long standing politically incorrect English jokes where an Irish man bears the brunt of a joke because he just doesn’t understand the simplest of logic or common sense. ie ” Why did the Irishman drown eating pickled onions?…Because he got his head stuck in the jar”.

    It would seem that despite years of the PC brigade trying to dispel this racially orientated stereotype that the Irish newspapers are hell bent on proving the stereotype correct.

    Why did the Irishman refuse free advertising? Because he thought he could charge someone to advertise for him.

  43. I looked at the first site on the list, the “Irish Independent.” All their videos have a large “SHARE” button as an obvious way to encourage readers to link to the video

    I guess the webmaster will have to change all those to say “PAY €300 AND THEN SHARE” or something like that.

  44. I note that the Irish Times puts a Facebook Share link on their story pages. Are they going to charge you when you choose to share their stories?

  45. This, as some very witty Cracked editor put very eloquently, “is like trying to stop an assailant by punching him on the knife.”

    It’s the swan’s song of a dying industry, a desperate effort to grab the last bits of cash before sinking into the depths forever.

    Times are changing, move on or die.

  46. I disagree with Richard Page; I don’t think there’s any risk of re-establishing that colonial stereotype – there’s already an Internet stereotype of the Dead Hand of Print Journalism trying to do a King Canute against the dreaded web, and this behaviour simply reinforces that one.

    What with pay walls, overpriced subs for tablet PDFs of free websites and so much more, it’s hard to find a ‘print’ organisation that ‘gets’ the web.

    12 years ago I had a job editing the web site of a very successful magazine; in the end I gave up, because they blocked anything that would make the site successful, from an early experiment in social media, to denying us news stories. Their rivals weren’t quite so stupid, and stole the market from under their noses.

    The Irish ‘print’ is following that proud, sad tradition, and as so many have said, there’s no risk of destroying the web, none at all. Just themselves.

    They just don’t get it.

  47. Since when do the Irish have to be just like everybody else? If Irish media want to shoot themselves in the foot, who’s to stop them?
    –An Irish-American journalist

  48. What’s a newspaper? 😉

  49. @Eddie–do you even understand what a news aggregator is? It is a site that links back to the original article! Now, Eddie, perhaps you don’t understand how this strange contraption called the internet works: when people click on links on news aggregator sites, those links take them to the website of the newspaper in question. The more traffic on the website of the newspaper, the more advertising revenue that paper is likely to get since much internet advertising is driven by traffic–or clicks per page.

    In short, NLI/NNI are basically denying themselves revenue and destroying their own businesses with this absurdity. No clicks means no advertising revenue. Infuriating people by charging 300 Euros just to link to them means no one will bother even reading them at all. No readership, no advertising revenue, no newspaper. While I know several Irishmen and women who’d love to spend all day at the pub (in fact, I’m related to at least two dozen I can name right off the top of my head!), my guess is the staff at those papers would tell the fools making these ridiculous demands to get stuffed.

  50. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot.

    By this thinking, everytime they link to a YouTube video, a Facebook page, a tweet etc etc etc they should pay these companies money.

    In fact they linked to a story on my site at one stage a few years ago. Think I’ll issue them with a bill for, um lets say €1500 for doing that

  51. All of you seem to go into the same direction, which is, it’s crazy. But lets look at it a little more in depth. Newspapers are paying journalists to provide and cross-check information. We know we can mostly rely on the information they provide. Journalists are paid to do that. Up till now, the paper copies of newspapers and the printed advertising paid for that. With people increasingly going online, that revenue is fast disappearing. So, newspapers are looking for new types of revenues. Their articles is what they sell, so I can understand they try to use that to raise the money they need to keep going. By the way, newspapers in many countries have settled with Google on their content, with Google paying them money by the way. Google, through its ads business actually gains money by referring to those articles, so its only fair they share the revenues.
    The Irish newspaper industry seem to do it their way. Is this the best way. I don’t know. But I understand what they try to do, survive and continue deliver us news that is verified and credible.

  52. @Christian I don’t think people here have a problem with journalists being paid; it’s the mechanism they are trying to use that causes concern.

    What I think is probably really behind this is that certain news aggregators (including Google) take a portion of the article content and display that as the text of a link. Depending on how much is used, it can reduce traffic to the original article. If the content is copied verbatim from the article clearly there is a potential for infringement.

    To take this to the extreme, one could copy the whole text of the article, wrap it in a link to the original and then claim not to have copied the article because you are only showing a link to it.

    Unfortunately, they have taken a real problem given it to a bunch of lawyers who don’t really understand the technology and come up with a “solution” that creates a worse problem. As with most things, it’s better not to involve lawyers unless you absolutely have to; they are the only ones who truly win when you do. (No offence intended Brendan & co.)

  53. @K Cummins: ‘perhaps you don’t understand how this strange contraption called the internet works’ – for the past day I have been expecting someone to make exactly that asinine remark. Thank you for disappointing me in such ample measure. I am well aware of how the Internet works; as it was that same network which enabled the content theft which eventually destroyed my business. To read you blithely condoning this very same criminal activity does not fill me with confidence as to your intelligence.

  54. This is why people like me view the law as a whole as silly.

  55. This is very stupid, and unenforceable.

    A URL link is merely an “electronic citation” and cannot infringe any copyright.

    If the newspapers have copyrighted material posted on their public Web sites then they should implement a subscription gateway, the way the rest of the world-wide Web community does.

  56. @Christian: Newspapers USED To pay journalists to provide credible news. Now however, for various business reasons (CUT COSTS, PROFIT!!!) they tend to employ Churnalists who copy the same press-releases sent to everyone.

  57. But @Christian, if they encourage people to link to the site, they’ll get more visitors, and then they can get more advertising revenue.

    The approach they’ve taken is like a department store asking people not to tell anyone where they are, and charging €300 for mentioning the address.

    The industry needs to understand linking isn’t the same as unlawfully copying – just like giving someone directions isn’t the same as stealing from the premises.

  58. A link is simply a recommendation to read someone else’s website, and trying to punish people for providing that free service is the height of stupidity.

    A link tells you where to find a particular article, and after that it’s up to the newspaper to decide how they deliver the content. If they wish to charge, that’s their right.

    If I recommend today’s IT editorial and tell you it’s available in Eason’s, will some debt collector arrive at my door looking for his slice? He should, because it’s the very same thing as linking on a website.

    There are some in the mainstream media who feel threatened by the idea of qualified people expressing what’s on their mind and this development is certainly redolent of that insecure faction.

    I suspect this move is inspired by the rantings of Ireland’s Greatest Journalist.

  59. I have a funny feeling that these newspapers are in serious financial trouble and are seeking a way to earn some big money over the next few months. What I can’t understand is why these newspapers are online in the first place if they don’t want people to read their papers online – that’s all a link does is offer friends a chance to read interesting articles that someone feels is important! I doubt anyone wants to “steal” their work – they could do that from the online website edition without using an external link! DAH!!

  60. I may be a little dim here but if Newspapers do not want people to ‘link’ or share articles etc from their web pages for FREE they can resolve this very easily, by making them subscription only.

    Then you can link away but the copyright will be protected to only those allowed to view; just like every other business on the web who make their revenue from content supplied.

  61. Its an industry simply struggling for revenue and picked the worst way to drum up another revenue stream. One of the reasons the industry is struggling is due to the overcrowded market of printed papers, in particular in the north. It’s time some rational business sense came into play, merge local papers, rather than producing struggling media publications that only serve certain sections/religions in society. if they don’t want to share content online, then stick it behind a paywall and kiss goodbye to the online advertisers…which they won’t do either. The industry is on its last legs…give it another 20-30 years and it will all be online.

  62. A link on the Internet is nothing more than the Internet version of a citation. If they want to be consistent, they should apply this fee to all forms of citation, such as in government or university papers, books, on TV shows etc. Of course they won’t do that, which just goes to show that they don’t understand that the Internet isn’t all that different than what we’ve had before, it’s just faster, cheaper and allows information to propagate globally.

  63. So I went to the NLI website, and clicked the license fee calculator link (I won’t link to it, because, well, I might need a license). The first choice is what type of company you are, a Commercial Company or a PR Company – no charity organisation or private individual options. So even if Women’s Aide thought they needed a license, the NLI tool won’t tell them how much it is.

  64. But a link isn’t copyrighted content… particularly if you use your own anchor text. It’s simply directing readers to copyrighted content on the newspapers’ own digital property.

    By the same rationale they could argue that showing an article to a friend in the print edition is chargeable, or saying “have you read that article in the Irish Times about the.

    It shows a staggering lack of understanding of how the online ecosystem works, and will sadly only hasten the demise of print media in Ireland. Decision time: get with the digital programme or RIP!

  65. Let us for arguments sake start a simple irish facebook campaign where we tell all our friends NOT to link to anything said newspapers write and instead refer to other sources and blogs.

    Then let us see how long it will take until the papers start losing revenue.

    In the long run, VOTE. Not for parties but for persons.

  66. A link does not hold any informational value in itself but is merely a reference. Ask any other industry if they would consider charging a customers if they recommended more people towards their product…

    After all however, I don’t think this will be a big deal. This news will spread in the blogger community quicker than legislation can pass, links will move to other, not copyrighted sites and at least one of those papers will go bust due loss in revenue 😉

  67. This is extraordinary hubris. If I read anything funnier or more demonstrative of a complete, fundamental lack of understanding of the internet in 2013 I’ll be amazed. How on earth did they actually manage to get a website up in the first place.
    And why did they bother? Clearly they don’t want anyone to find it.

  68. Since when do the Irish have to be just like everybody else? If Irish media want to shoot themselves in the foot, who’s to stop them?

  69. I have not read all the comments and this may already have been mentioned, but do the newspapers also propose to pay the subjects of their stories for using their names? Perhaps a fee to every political party mentioned might be a novel source for funding politics. Sports stars would be laughing and surely Louise Walsh could afford to retire at last.
    The more I think about it the more I think this proposal has merit!

  70. “The short story is that the NNI wants anyone who links to one of their stories online to pay”

    …And the horse they rode in on!

  71. Ok this one is really simple:

    If you want to stop this in its tracks you can

    1. Refuse all links at the server level
    2. Accept links but force people through a paywall to
    access the content

    If you do either of these things your business will die and you will quickly become irrelevant.

    Pretty cut and dry i would have thought?

  72. I see that independent (dot) ie currently have upwards of 1,807,000 external links back to to their site.
    Some 300 links are pointing to the Indo from (paper review every morning would be one reason). It will be a very interesting conversation when NLI present their invoice to the BBC for links to independent (dot) ie.
    I can’t see them doing that any time soon as they have to pick on a few of the smaller site, and most likely companies without large legal departments, first.

  73. I have given up putting comments on the Irish Times page that reported the NNI’s response, and whose link I probably cannot quote here, because all my posts have since been yanked (i.e. taken off there). They were critical of NNI but not offensive, and I believe they made valid points. Their site does say it reserves the right to remove posts but, short of sheer censorship, I can’t see a reason here.

    In summary, I claimed that a Web link (or URL link) does not contain anything itself that is copyrightable. The associated string of characters in the URL is merely an electronic citation (a point I already made earlier on this site) that indicates where that material is located. Furthermore, having a URL by itself doesn’t not guarantee that you have access to that referenced material. As well as needing a working Internet connection, that site must reciprocate by granting you access when you follow the URL link.

    In other words, any site can disable access to it via a URL, or limit access to customers with a paid account or some other type of membership.

    Assuming that NNI want the public to retain access to their content, but also want to stop commercial sites making money out of it, then I also claimed that existing copyright law copes with this, and that the URL concept (which is an innocent party) does not need any special restrictions. A case I happen to be familiar with in UK law (Morris .v. Ashbee) dates right back to 1868. In that case (often quoted in copyright texts) Ashbee wanted to create a commercial directory of London. He used another commercial directory (from Morris) as a springboard so that he could visit the listed addresses. He insisted his work was independent but Morris successfully accused him of profiting by someone else’s work, as opposed to ‘from it’. Ashbee lost and his company went bankrupt. He died a year or so later.

  74. I’m delighted to here that at least some editors (if not proprietors), are waking up and smelling the coffee.

    But that’s just the start. They need to realise that there’s a whole generation out there that will never regularly read a newspaper.

    They need to drink the coffee and smell the kippers.

  75. Yes, the NLI is misguided, but the NLI is not “Irish newspapers.” It is a central content licensing company that handles article reprints.

    I work with several forward-thinking and Internet-savvy Irish regional newspapers; they want sites to link to them because they recognize the value of inbound links for SEO. They would think it absurd to charge for links.

45 Trackbacks

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  16. […] McGarr of McGarr’s solicitors. For working on protecting the Internet in Ireland. For being aware of the dangers and pointing them […]

  17. […] it’s Friday. On Sunday Simon McGarr wrote a fascinating piece in which he revealed that some of his professional clients were under pressure from Newspaper […]

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  22. […] of late). That possibility is made all the more unlikely given NNI’s now well publicised legal harassment of Women’s Aid, which lays out a demand for hundreds of Euro in recompense for linking to […]

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