Did UK Press Association Violate Copyright of News Agency?

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The UK Press Association has agreed to pay an "undisclosed sum" after being accused of copyright violation. (Credit: PA, screenshot)

In January, a freelance news agency accused the UK Press Association of violating copyright by re-using “parts of its interview” with the father of murder victim Joanna Yeates, Journalism.co.uk reported.

The Press Association didn’t have the rights to re-print the interview by the freelance news agency Solent News and Photo, according to Journalism.co.uk.  Solent did, however, sell the story to the Southern Daily Echo, among other news outlets in late December, the Press Gazette explained.

“After the interview was published on the Echo’s website, Solent claimed it later appeared ‘word for word’ on the Daily Mirror website – with the attribution ‘told the Southern Daily Echo.'”

The Press Association reportedly “distributed” the story to the Mirror and other news outlets.  According to Hold the Front Page, when the Daily Mirror and other news outlets picked up the story, quotes were attributed to the Southern Daily Echo, as opposed to Solent.

The Press Association reportedly denied Solent’s call to pull the story. The National Association of Press Agencies supported Solent in its action against the Press Association.

In early August, the Press Association paid Solent “an undisclosed sum” over the instance.

Solent’s David Holt commented on the case. According to the Press Gazette, Holt stated:

“This wasn’t a case of someone grabbing a couple of quotes. It was a wholesale lift. We had filed 237 words, the piece by PA which was published in numerous newspapers and websites was 241 words and included the attribute ‘told the Southern Daily Echo,’ which was of course wrong.

“There followed a series of exchanges with PA in which they first tried to argue ‘there is no copyright on news’ and then, without a hint of irony, tried to hide behind fair usage under copyright legislation. They refused point blank to withdraw the story.

However, the Press Association denies Solent’s account of events, according to Journalism.co.uk, and instead claimed that the quotations the Press Association is accused of “lifting” really were “in the public domain.”

Press Association editor Jonathan Grun reportedly stated:

“We do not recognise the interpretation of the matter as outlined in Solent’s colourful press release.

“The quotes from Jo Yeates’s family were in the public domain on a newspaper website and were clearly attributed in our story. When Solent’s copyright in the quotes was asserted we reached a mutually satisfactory settlement. We believe that we acted in good faith on a sensitive story involving the parents of a murder victim.”

In January, Journalism.co.uk reported that Grun stated that his agency “at all times acted in good faith in our reporting of this story.”

iMediaEthics wrote to Solent for comment.  Solent’s Justin Menhenett  responded that David Holt, Solent’s director who “has been dealing with this,” is on vacation, but that the agency has no further comment.

iMediaEthics has written to the Press Association for comment and will update with any response.

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Did UK Press Association Violate Copyright of News Agency?

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