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Irish Newspapers and Links: A welcome evolution of position

It appears as though there has been some evolution in the position of the Irish Newspaper industry since Friday, when the issue of whether links were subject to copyright was addressed on RTE’s Morning Ireland, the country’s most listened-to radio programme.

As of this afternoon. Newspaper Licensing Ireland have placed a prominent statement on their homepage. It reads

Statement on behalf of Newspaper Licensing Ireland Limited regarding use of newspaper content

For personal use: NLI never requires or requests a licence for personal use of newspaper content.

For commercial use: NLI does not require a licence from any organisation which only displays or transmits links to newspaper content. A licence is required when there is other reproduction of the newspaper content, such as display of PDFs or text extracts.

6 January 2012

This is a welcome evolution of the earlier Newspaper Licensing Ireland Limited position set out in correspondence as recently as the 19th December 2012 with our office that

“It is both a breach of our members’ intellectual property rights and their website terms and conditions for your client or any other entity to link to its (sic) websites other than for personal use.”

The newspaper industry, and the Irish Times in particular, should be congratulated on the responsiveness shown to this issue as it gained public attention over the past seven days. Our clients, Women’s Aid, are now in a position to consider whether they wish to purchase a licence from the Newspaper industry with the benefit of the additional clarity today’s statement provides.

Of more general social value, the damaging assertion that permission was required (and could be refused) to link to another website has been abandoned.

For the sake of the country’s free exchange of views, this is a significant development.


You can read the background to this story on our posts:

2012: The year Irish newspapers tried to destroy the web

1st Letter to Newspaper Licensing Ireland on behalf of Women’s Aid


2nd Letter to Newspaper Licensing ireland on behalf of Women’s Aid

Reaction to Irish Newspapers demanding money for links



  1. Dear McGarr,

    A very good summary and its great to see a follow up on this issue. May I suggest that this matter is far from closed. The #linkgate side might be – but the NNI and their European Trade Group is still pushing to sue search engines, like Google.

    Google provides about 4 billion clicks a month in France. I don’t know what that number is in Ireland, but it’s probably proportionately similar.

    Charging Google/search engine still isn’t good for society, business or indeed the Newspapers.

    Its a bit of a smokescreen/pr stunt: get everyone riled up about links, show how mature you are but the core issue, of having their content listed on Google, remains.

  2. I still see some wiggle room:

    “For commercial use: NLI does not require a licence from any organisation which only displays or transmits links to newspaper content.”

    That not the same as saying “links are not copyrightable.” In fact it seems like they’re saying they do believe they have copyright on links but that they are choosing not to exercise that right.

    Things sound much better for your client and the current effective status seems good for all involved. But the fact that some in the newspaper business think links are copyrightable indicates that they still have some fundamental misunderstandings about how the web works.

    That does not bode well for the Irish print media.

  3. Their statement, while welcome, leaves quite a bit to be desired.

    What exactly constitutes a “text extract”?
    How many words can you use before they consider the content to require a license?
    Also, have they ever clarified the position of adverts and advertorial?

    I’d have to dig out the letters they sent us, though as far as I know they never replied to our solicitor’s queries

  4. I’m wondering, does the path of a URL constitute copyright material if it duplicates the headline of an article?

    I’m fairly certain these newspapers don’t understand how the Internet and search engines work.

    Links are what brings people to their pages, thus increasing their advertising revenue.

    Links are also a substantial proportion of what Google uses to determine a page’s ranking in search engines. Generally speaking, the more the better.

    Also, they take into account the anchor text of the link (the bit you see); the more relevant to the content of the article in question, the more credit search engine’s give it. So, links that are surrounded by text and contain text that quotes material from the article are often a positive thing too.

    Obviously, the higher in search engines an article is, the more people click on it, and so the more potential advertising revenue.

    CTR (Click-through rate) is also affected by the content of the snippet — the bit of text in search engine results pages that follows the link. The more relevant that is to the material of the article, the more likely people are to click through. Extracts from the article are more likely to encourage clicks than not, again increasing potential advertising revenue.

    In their greed, the European newspapers seem to be cutting off their noses to spite their faces. A lack of understanding of their primary traffic drivers is hindering their survival. Google doesn’t need them so much as they need Google.

    If they were smart they would be offering encouragement to engender as many relevant links as they possibly can – indeed inbound marketers like me are hired by smarter companies to do exactly that.

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