Moneyweb versus Fin24 legal battle in court

rpm

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Moneyweb versus Fin24

More than a year and a half after Moneyweb launched an application against Fin24 in the South Gauteng High Court for alleged plagiarism, copyright infringement and unfair competition, the case will be heard in the South Gauteng High Court on Thursday and Friday this week.
 

rpm

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The copyright battle between Moneyweb and Media24 over several articles started in the High Court in Johannesburg on Thursday, with Moneyweb's counsel explaining why it was important to protect the work of its journalists.

Acting Judge Jonathan Berger, known for taking on human rights cases in the Constitutional Court, heard Moneyweb's counsel Philip Ginsberg explain whether Media24 copied news stories produced by Moneyweb on its website.

Moneyweb submitted that Media24 ''come nowhere close'' to showing that the latter's use of the articles was ''fair use'' and that they should not escape the consequences of their alleged copying.

''By and large, what they have taken is the essential feature of the articles by Moneyweb,'' said Ginsburg.

''We say not only have they taken too much quantity here, but too much quality.''

He said Media24 was entitled to have its own business model, but it had violated its own policy on aggregation - the practice of modifying or shortening an article from another source and using it on a website.

He said Media24 subsidiary 24.com is an aggregator which searches for articles on the internet and put them together for publication, but it was hard to tell whether the company was ''riding on the coat tails'' of others.

The company's aggregation policy stated that no more than 30% of original content should be used and that the copy must be rewritten.

''We do not complain about their business model, obviously it is the world of internet journalism, but it is the way they practice,'' said Ginsberg.

''In each and every case they have used far in excess of 30%.''

He rejected Media24's belief that sending a journalist to each news event is impossible, outdated, and would result in less news at a slower pace.

It has said that to operate like this would be to ''deliver today's news next week'', a situation where no modern business would survive. More news could be covered by aggregation.

''But what if the reporter gets it wrong?'' asked Ginsburg.

Moneyweb editor Ryk van Niekerk and News24.com editor-in-chief Andrew Trench were in court for the case.

He said the internet publication Legal Brief's business model was an acceptable model because it only gave a short taste of the subject, attributed clearly and linked back to the source of story.

''It is just a taste. But when you have read a Fin24 article, and as the click through rates show, you don't need to read the other article.''

Earlier, Media24's lawyers wanted sections of Moneyweb's heads of argument, and affidavits by a number of editors opposed to Media24's aggregation practice, struck out.

An affidavit by Charmain Naidoo, general manager of the Times Media Group was read, and in it, Naidoo said that she would not permit journalists in that company to use articles in the way Media24 does, as it was against fair use principles.

Ginsburg moved on to the definition of ''orginality'' in terms of the Copyright Act, after Media24 submitted in its court papers that simply writing up what a newsmaker said, was not original work, and so not protected by copyright.

An affidavit by well-known journalist Kim Cloete was read out, in which she said she had written an article that Media24 has said is not completely original, and that she attended the press briefing, took notes, asked supplementary questions and wrote her own unique article.

''So it's not just a bald statement of I wrote an original statement,'' said Ginsburg.

The case continues.

News24 - http://www.fin24.com/Companies/ICT/Important-to-protect-work-of-journalists-court-hears-20150507
 

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The Copyright Act of 1978 has not kept up with the internet age, counsel for Media24 said in the company's defence in the High Court in Johannesburg after Moneyweb accused it of using its stories.

"The times they are a changing," boomed Cedric Puckrin SC.

"This is a 1978 act. The internet didn't exist."

A good example of this, according to Puckrin, was that computer source codes were protected as literary works before laws were amended.

"Human behaviour and conduct has changed and it must be judged according to the words of the statute," said Puckrin, who submitted that the statutes had been overtaken by time.

Moneyweb launched the court application after it objected to Media24's Fin24 using parts of some of its stories, saying that it had spent effort and money to get the stories, and Fin24 was then just allegedly copying them.

It had complained to Fin24 about this and although Fin24 said it would put a link into the article in question, it also said that it had done nothing wrong.

Moneyweb wants the judge to rule that what Fin24 did was unlawful, that they take down the articles, and the Caxton-owned company wants damages, to be calculated at a later stage.

Puckrin told Acting Judge Daniel Berger that the case was the first of its kind in South Africa and even internationally, other courts are still grappling with the issue.

He asked Berger to accept his submission that originality required that the work should not be copied from something else.

Puckrin contended that copyright is a derivative law, where it was possible to have copyright in an infringing work.

The best example was a translation - where a person could have copyright in the translation, but without permission from the original author, the translation would be an infringement of copyright.

He spent some time providing examples of case law which had tried to understand the concept of originality and provided several examples, such as whether a stenographer or person taking shorthand was producing an original or whether copying poems for an anthology made the anthology original.

He questioned whether Moneyweb had provided enough evidence to show that the articles, which were ''hot news of the day'', were original, or if a transcript was "slavishly" copied.

''If you take the whole you will infringe. The problem arises when you don't take the whole - that is the alleged infringement," said Puckrin.

Continuing his argument, he said: "'Plagiarism', you won't find the word in the Copyright Act. It's just an emotive term, it doesn't take the case further."

He cited a previous Supreme Court of Appeal case which attempted to define original work as that which originates from an author and is not copied from another work. It must also be a product of the author's skill and judgement, and must not be characterised as a purely mechanical exercise.

The term "sweat of the brow" was used to describe a journalist travelling 1 500km to cover a story.

He suggested that "all words are copied" and added, "If you chop up any article into single words, you are left with no copyright."

"Whilst the bar is not high, My Lord, it is more than the sweat of the brow."

Puckrin is expected to continue with the facts of the alleged copying when the case resumes on Friday morning.

News24 - http://www.fin24.com/Companies/ICT/Copyright-Act-outdated-Media24-tells-court-20150507
 

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The complex permutations of copyright law were argued in the dispute between Moneyweb and Media24 in the High Court in Johannesburg on Friday.

More than a year and a half ago Moneyweb launched this application against Fin24 for alleged plagiarism, copyright infringement and unfair competition.

Moneyweb, owned by the Caxton group, argues that Fin24, owned by Caxton's competitor Media24, used 7 of its articles unlawfully and offered it as its own. Fin24 has rejected these claims as patently false. The 7 articles were published between July 2012 and July 2013.

One of the seven articles in question concerned a property story about the sale of a castle in Hout Bay, written by journalist Micel Schnehage, who died of cancer before the case was heard.

Moneyweb hopes that the judge will order that Fin24 used some of its articles unlawfully, but Fin24's counsel has questioned whether Moneyweb held copyright over the substance of the articles in the first place.

In Schnehage's article on the castle, Media24's lawyer Cedric Puckrin SC said that if somebody died, copyright was assumed to rest with the deceased, unless it could be proven otherwise, which he said he would show.

He argued that her story was based on a press release by property company Sotheby's, possibly some information from Wikipedia, and a telephone call.

Taking the court through a paragraph by paragraph ''three-way'' comparison of the article in question, he said that firstly, words like ''including'' did not count when establishing originality, and individual letters were also not subject to copyright.

He said there was no copyright in anything spoken, or in music, until it was written down or recorded.

Schnehage may have consulted an atlas to find the location, and spoken to Sotheby's Nina Smith on the telephone for a one line quote, but other than that she just ''jumbled up the paragraphs'' to write her story.

In earlier argument, Puckrin had questioned whether ''sweat of the brow'' was enough to call work ''original''.

He said that one paragraph from Moneyweb's source, a Sotheby's annoucement, read: ''The beautiful Western Cape village of Hout Bay boasts many remarkable homes, but none so eye-catching and well known as The Castle, situated high up against the Karbonkelberg mountainside overlooking the beach and the bay.''

The second and third paragraph of the Sotheby's release indicated it had been sold to a Russian buyer for R23m.

'Work is not original'

The Moneyweb intro read: ''A Russian businessman has bought a six-storey castle (pictured) nestled in the Karbonkelberg on the outskirts of Hout Bay in the Western Cape for R23 million.''

The Fin24 intro read: ''A picturesque six-story castle in Karbonkelberg, on the outskirts of Hout Bay has been sold to a Russian businessman for R23 million.''

Puckrin said: ''We will demonstrate that where there is a source, the work is not original, so [they] can never say [we] took a substantial part.

''The green [highlighted parts] in Ms Schnehage's Moneyweb article is sourced word for word from the Sotheby's press release.''
The words ''furniture and trimmings included in the deal'' was the only part of Moneyweb's article which was not in the Sotheby's press release, Puckrin claimed.

''Some of the grey [marked text] appears to be from Wikipedia.''

He said if Fin24 only took the parts that came from the Sotheby's release, the copying ''could never be substantial''.
''What I'm saying is it is not original, demonstrably. My Lord what we have taken, under no stretch of the imagination... can be a substantial part.''

He added that: ''The Copyright Act cannot be used as a muzzle to prevent the publication of trivial parts of the article.''
He said that journalist Kim Cloete in her contested article about MPs' salaries: ''Jumbled the words as Ms Schnehage did with the Sotheby's article and gave no attribution.''

The case continues.

News24 - http://www.fin24.com/Companies/ICT/Moneyweb-articles-picked-apart-in-court-20150508
 

Foxhound5366

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The irony of rpm posting a full news story about a legal case pertaining to copying the majority of news stories isn't lost on me.

Sure, the original source is attributed, but there is no reason for anybody to click through to that link and therefore the original site loses while MyBB benefits. Not so?
 

rpm

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Finance news website Moneyweb concluded its copyright court dispute with Media24 on Friday by insisting there was more to producing a story than just writing down information.

''It took special skill and effort," said Steven Budlender, occasionally glancing at the reporters in the public gallery of the High Court in Johannesburg.

He was submitting final reply for Moneyweb, after two days of argument over whether Media24's Fin24 breached its own rules by allegedly copying seven articles from Moneyweb.

Moneyweb is claiming damages from Fin24. The amount would be determined should the court find in Moneyweb’s favour.

Cedrick Puckrin SC, for Media24, submitted the seven articles in question were based on information already available, such as in press releases or the Government Gazette, that there had been attribution to Moneyweb, and that Fin24’s versions were significantly shorter.

'Not acted unlawfully'

He said Moneyweb had not established that the articles were original, because some of the information was said at press conferences, or quotes had been taken from a transcript of a radio interview. Fin24 had also sent its articles out after a delay, in an era where the internet provided news instantly.

''Even if my client had motive, we say it has not acted unlawfully,'' Puckrin said.

He said Moneyweb had itself copied articles from international sources and, said Puckrin, the Financial Times for example could bring a trademark claim against Moneyweb if it wanted.

Budlender disagreed. He said that in one of the stories, about Amplats, Moneyweb made the recording, and edited the transcript, making it a source created by Moneyweb.

He said the editor Ryk van Niekerk used ''considerable skill and effort to go through the transcript''.

Earlier it was reported that Puckrin submitted that Moneyweb writer Hilton Tarrant read a transcript of the interview with Amplats CEO Chris Griffith, selected quotes, and wrote a story.

On the sidelines of the case, Van Niekerk told News24 that he had written the story, not Tarrant, as Puckrin had submitted. He showed News24 an extract from court papers to support this, and said Tarrant conducted the radio interview.

'Originality is established'

Addressing the court, Budlender contended that the story on the castle in Hout Bay ''was not the greatest work'', but had required effort.

In the story about MPs’ salaries, journalist Kim Cloete had to contact the right person to ask for additional information, which took skill and effort.

Budlender said journalists went to a news event, or searched for a source. They took notes and prepared their articles from this work.

''We say originality, on these papers, ... is established.''

Although the sentences were rewritten on Fin24, the information came from Moneyweb.

''In this case there is no doubt that what was reproduced, was reproduced from our article. There was no fluke.''

Facts given at a press conference might be in the public domain, Budlender continued.

"A newspaper article is not only about the facts, it's about the way the facts are presented to the reader.''

Readership affected

Moneyweb's readership had been affected. Over 3 000 people read the McDonald's article on Moneyweb. The Fin24 article, released 15-and-a-half hours later, had over 16 000 hits.

''The point is Fin24 has profited, derived custom by copying our work," Budlender said.

“People who had searched McDonald's on Google would have found the two articles, instead of just the Moneyweb article. Fin24 profited and we lost out [on visitors].''

When both sides were finished, Acting Judge Daniel Berger said he would consider the arguments and thanked counsel for their submissions.

''I am going to have to reserve judgment and I will do my best to get it out as soon as possible,'' he said.

Philip Ginsburg SC submitted the main argument for Moneyweb.

News24 - http://www.fin24.com/Companies/Judgment-reserved-in-Moneyweb-Fin24-dispute-20150508
 

rpm

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The irony of rpm posting a full news story about a legal case pertaining to copying the majority of news stories isn't lost on me. Sure, the original source is attributed, but there is no reason for anybody to click through to that link and therefore the original site loses while MyBB benefits. Not so?
These stories do not come from a website, but rather from the News24 Wire, which we have an agreement with. It is wire copy, similar to Sapa, Reuters, Bloomberg etc where the same story is republished by many partner publishers.

https://news24wire.com
 
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