The Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) licenses companies to copy from national and regional newspapers and collects fees on their behalf.

I’ve been talking to the NLA’s commercial director Andrew Hughes about the fees newspapers are asking web monitoring services such as NewsNow to pay in order to index and link to their content…

Can you explain what the NLA does? What is its relationship with newspapers?

The NLA was set up in 1996 to create a licensing body to manage newspaper copyright collection from businesses such as press cuttings agencies.

It is owned by the eight major newspapers, who all have an equal share, though it represents hundreds of other smaller newspapers. We have been collecting for use of newspaper content offline since then, and have recently looked at how to apply this for companies and websites that use newspaper content online.

How is the NLA funded?

By the newspapers, though we generate almost £25m gross per year, which is used to fund our activities.

What kind of fees are you expecting from news aggregators such as NewsNow?

We are suggesting that they (NewsNow) pay a web database license fee of around £5,000 to £10,000 per year. We are just focusing on B2B web monitoring services, and the charges could start at £50 per year, depending on the headcount and user base.

So, NewsNow would pay up to £10,000 per year, and users of their paid services would also pay us for the use of this content. The average fee is around £155 per year. I’m surprised that NewsNow feels so strongly about it, as it is a relatively small amount.

Do you think NewsNow is concerned about their users having to pay more?

If you look at the fees that NewsNow charges on its website, users pay from £95 per month for tailored services, though our experience is that many are paying more like £3,000 to £5,000 per annum.

I don’t think it is being unduly greedy to suggest that some of this comes back to us on behalf of the organisations creating the content. That is the nub of the issue for us. It’s a simple issue of fairness.

Who sets these fees and how have they been determined?

We have set the fees, through a process of  consultation and discussion. We have used offline press content fees as a reference point, and have even discounted this. So online, we are charging around a sixth of the usual fees.

We realise that charging for this online is a new concept, so we have adjusted the fees to take account of this.

What has the response been from the web monitoring services to the NLA’s web licences?

We have reached agreement with many of the major press cuttings agencies as well as a large web-based agency, which I can’t name at the moment. We are also in a polite dialogue with Meltwater.

I wouldn’t say that people welcome the arrival of fees, but some see the benefits of legitimising their use of this content and avoiding exposing themselves to any issues around copyright infringement.

This is something we have seen offline. Before 1995, many businesses that relied on newspaper content could not find a buyer, because no-one would look at an industry which was based around copyrighted content.

The more far-sighted will realise that the legitimacy we provide, as well as the protection from any problems around copyright will help them in future.

If the charges for web monitoring services to use distribute newspaper website content are so low, what is the point?

It is correct that the amounts are relatively low, total revenues may be £1m in a couple of years, and this won’t change the face of the newspaper industry by any means. However, newspapers are expecting that the use of their content has a value.

A sense of scale needs to be maintained by all players, it is a small sum of money we are asking NewsNow and others to pay, which is a point of principle for us.

One important point that, deliberatelyy or accidentally, NewsNow misrepresents, is that we are not seeking to disturb the operation of its free sites for consumers, these are notsubjectt to NLA regulation.

In essence, we are deliberately drawing a line between paid services for business users and consumer services.

Do newspapers appreciate the value of links from aggregators? Is there not a risk of cutting off this source of traffic?

The newspaper industry is supporting linking third party use of its content in this way, and appreciates the value of this to its businesses. To suggest otherwise is to fly in the face of reason.

Newspapers are absolutely in favour of links and the NLA is not looking to stop sites from linking.

Why do you think NewsNow is so opposed to the idea?

I can only speculate on NewsNow’s motives, perhaps the idea that a licence is needed to copying and use newspaper content is something they feel uncomfortable about. The idea that, once you put content online it can be freely copied is not something newspapers are happy about.

At what point are paid services breaching the terms of the license? By linking with a headline? Providing extracts?

The creation of an index around this content is copying, as is providing headlines and extracts. Newspapers’ terms and conditions are clear on this issue, and copying is not allowed under these terms.

Things change on the web, and the invitation from NLA is to accept that change happens and to move into the future. You have to evolve and move forward, you cannot stop the clock on the web at the point where everything is free.

In business terms, you have to recognise that newspapers have shareholders, employees and a business to protect. A way forward needs to be found that will be beneficial to all parties.

What happens if NewsNow refuses to comply?

We have a dialogue with NewsNow, and we hope it will not come to that. Ultimately, if NewsNow refuses to operate by the rules, it creates a difficult situation for us. Our obligation is to treat everyone fairly.

In relation to paid services, we are inviting them to operate them under licenses, and we are protecting them from some of the potential implications of copying that content.

The other thing we are keen for people to understand is that we have invested £2m in providing a better platform for the web scraping and crawling community to use, our eClips web

Scraping and crawling can be ineffective at times and doesn’t deal with time issues and take context into account.

We want to make it easier by taking content from newspapers’ CMS systems, and we can offer the professional media monitoring agencies a better experience by providing this service.

You are only after a slice of NewsNow’s B2B business. Why not B2C? What’s the difference between a service that makes money from businesses, as opposed to advertising / consumers?

Both models are valid, but for us, there is a clear dividing line between free ad-supported services directed at consumers and the paid B2B models. It is up to publishers to decide what they want to do about ad supported B2C models, it has never been discussed with us.