Judgment in the case of Moneyweb v Media24 came out recently. The issue: had Media24, owner of the online financial news aggregator, Fin24, infringed Moneyweb’s copyright in seven articles? Each of these articles had been written by journalists for Moneyweb, and in each case Fin24 had used a part of the article in its publication.

The judge held that, of the seven articles, only three actually enjoyed copyright. Why? Because Moneyweb had been unable to cross the ‘originality’ threshold, in other words show that the creation of the article involved skill or labour – the old ‘sweat of the brow’ thing. The judge held that four of the articles had amounted to little more than a rehashing of either a media release or a transcript of a telephone interview.

Yet the copyright in only one article had been infringed. In the case of this article there had almost been word-for-word copying. But with the other two, Fin24 hadn’t taken a ‘substantial’ part. Tricky area this – the law says that it’s quality not quantity that counts, and in the case of one of the articles the first few paras had been taken but the rest hadn’t, whereas in the case of the other article four extracts had been taken, but they did not ‘form a continuous block of text’, nor did they represent the ‘heart’ of the article.

The fair dealing defence then had to be considered in respect of the one article. Section 12(1) talks of copying ‘for the purposes of reporting current events in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical’, and in circumstances where the source and the name of the author are ‘mentioned’.

The judge said that factors that come into play include the nature of the medium, the time lapse between publication, the amount of text taken, and the extent of the acknowledgment. The judge held that having a hyperlink to the original article is sufficient acknowledgment of source and authorship: ‘In my view almost every reader of the internet will be familiar with the hyperlink’.’ But the considerable amount taken, and the fact that Fin24’s piece came out a mere seven hours after Moneyweb’s, meant that this had not been fair. So Fin24 was guilty of infringing copyright in one article.

Comments are closed.