THE NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS of Ireland is to be asked to be appear before an Oireachtas committee this month to explain its position on charging websites for linking to Irish newspaper sites.
Labour TD Seán Kenny says he is asking the NNI to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Communications when it meets in a fortnight’s time. Solicitor Simon McGarr, who first raised the issue, is believed to have also written to the Committee requesting that it addresses the topic.
As criticism of the newspaper body mounted yesterday over its position on linking to newspaper websites, the NNI issued a statement reiterating its stance that hyperlinks are a breach of copyright unless a license is obtained to do so or if the links come from a personal website rather than a commercial one.
The Irish Times appeared to directly contradict the NNI yesterday when the newspaper said it supported the NNI’s position that copyright should be protected but also encouraged its readers “to share links as widely as possible”.
Other newspapers covered by the NNI, which represents 16 national newspapers and 26 local and regional newspapers across Ireland, have not come forward with their own views on linking and whether they support the NNI’s stance.
Seán Kenny described linking as “the very lifeblood” of the internet since the inception of the world wide web and said the NNI’s position was “absurd”.
Kenny also questioned whether links to newspapers made by individuals in comment sections or forums would be liable to be charged. He said:
On a wider level, what of websites like boards.ie – if members there post links, are those members liable for supposed copyright breaches or is the company that operates boards.ie liable? What if I, as an elected representative make a link to a newspaper website on my own website as part of my work – am I liable?
The Labour TD said the issue was one of freedom of speech and could harm Ireland’s reputation for innovation.
Much is made of Ireland as a digital smart economy, It is time for the NNI to realise that and to take on board that their assertion in this matter may well damage the economy, the digital smart economy that the Government is keen to establish.
I intend to raise this matter in the Oireachtas Committee on Communications and I will be asking the NNI to explain themselves and hopefully make them see that their interpretation of copyright law in this matter is, to say the least, completely misguided.
The issue came to prominence when Newspaper Licensing Ireland, a subsidiary of the NNI, wrote to the Women’s Aid charity requesting payment for links on its website which highlighted newspaper articles where the charity had been mentioned.