Monday, November 28, 2005

Agreement on digital newspaper clippings

The Dutch publishers and the government have reached an agreement in principle on digital newspaper clippings. Government officials can now legally distribute newspaper clippings from 12 national newspapers via their intranets. An agreement for the regional newspaper clippings still has to be worked out.

It took a court ruling of March 2, 2005 to make government realise that scanning newspaper, databasing them and distributing scanned newspaper clippings through their own internet networks was illegal without permission from the publishers. For copying printed articles and distributing these copies government had never permission nor paid any penny. Now the parties have reached an agreement with a reasonable reimbursement.

It is an old pain point which has now been solved at last. In 1996 I was the project manger of Central Station the Netherlands. This personal news service should have been a copy of the Belgian project Central Station. In this service publishers would deliver the text of their editions to a central database, from where articles were distributed to clients according to their profile. The Belgian service did go life but the Belgian journalists union went to court and requested a halt as the journalists did not receive any remuneration. In the meantime the Belgian service is active as Mediargus, as publishers and journalists came to an agreement. In the Dutch project we asked lawyers to do a profound study on the rights of journalists and copying of articles by companies and the government. In the study the lawyers told the project members (nine Dutch publishers) that the journalists had a right to compensation for the digital copy of a printed article and that consent was needed for copying digital articles. However the project Central Station the Netherlands never left the drawing board and the publishers only started to demand a fee for digital copies of newspaper articles after 2000.

Now almost 10 years after the legal study, the newspaper and magazine publishers can claim their remuneration. They have formed a small company for this purpose called Clip. This company makes agreements with clipping services, companies and the government. At last the government has recognised the right of publishers to request a fee for copying a newspaper article.

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