Copyright Tribunal sides with Meltwater and iSentia against Copyright Agency

The Copyright Tribunal has ruled to accept the Copyright Licence proposal put forward by Meltwater almost in its entirety after a four year battle with The Copyright Agency.

The Tribunal rejected the proposed license structure from The Copyright Agency which would have resulted in a 300% increase in costs.

Instead, it has accepted in full the offer proposed by Meltwater, as well as ruling that Meltwater is now able to enjoy an expanded set of rights regarding the use and distribution of the content across Asia Pacific. This includes the expansion of the library of content from six to 12 month and the extension of the licence term to four years. Publishers will also be barred from withdrawing titles from the license when it comes into effect, something which will give greater security to Meltwater and its clients.

The Copyright Agency collects fees from the companies which reproduce the content, and then distributes money to most publishers (last year, both News Corp’s The Australian and Nine’s The Australian Financial Review ditched the agency to instead enter into direct licensing deals with the media monitors).

The case, which was commenced by Meltwater in 2017, was driven by the company’s ambition to set a new price for content and ensure that there was one set of clear rules that all players in the industry could follow. In June 2018, iSentia, now Access Intelligence, joined the proceedings.

Streem was also originally part of the proceedings – but withdrew at the end of last year and entered into a new licensing agreement with the Copyright Agency. The three major media monitoring companies made separate applications in the tribunal seeking a cut in copyright fees.

Following the Streem agreement, the tribunal adjourned the proceedings to give iSentia and Meltwater time to consider that new model in the context of their Tribunal applications. The hearing resumed in February 2021 and ran for three weeks with additional days in March for closing submissions.

Meltwater executive director, APAC, David Hickey, commented: “Meltwater is absolutely delighted with the tribunal’s decision. It is a complete vindication of our efforts over the course of the last four years, and of our commitment to our customers.

“This fight was never about trying to avoid paying a fair payment for content licences. Rather we were seeking to establish a fair and even playing field and to ensure that our customers would be able to continue to enjoy the level of service and value that we provide them, at a price that would still be feasible for them to pay for that service.

iSentia chief executive, Ed Harrison said: “We are pleased with the Tribunal’s decision, but this is not about winners and losers. We believe this is a major achievement. We were always seeking the establishment of a long-term framework that would provide a level playing field for media monitoring organisations, fair prices for our clients, and ongoing certainty for all participants including publishers”

The tribunal’s decision included that the rate for the press clip rate shall be $1.39 rather than $1.31. Given the complexity of the matter and the tribunal’s reasoning, the Copyright Agency is considering the decision and its implications before responding further. However, the decision is contrary to Copyright Agency’s position as to the fair value of news articles and it will be considering its avenues for judicial review of the decision.


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