The Press Association has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to the freelance Solent News and Photo news agency in settlement of a dispute over breach of copyright, the National Association of Press Agencies said today.
Solent News and Photo Agency, backed by NAPA, took on PA after the wire service lifted and distributed Solent's interview with the father of murder victim Jo Yeates.
PA at first rejected Solent's assertion that its copyright had been breached when PA reproduced, without permission, the agency's interview with Jo's father when it was published on the Southern Daily Echo website at the same time that the agency sent the story to national newspapers.
David Holt of Solent said: "This was never about money. It was about journalistic practice and, to some extent, the future of journalism, particularly on the internet.
"Our work seems to have been blithely copied and pasted by someone sat at a computer miles away from the subject of the story, in this case grieving relatives, and put out for consumption, apparently without a second thought.
"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.
"We ended-up head to head with PA's lawyers. They tried to tell us that they had every right, that we did not have a case and even threatened to sue us if we dared to suggest that there was anything untoward.
"With the backing of NAPA the case was referred to specialist media lawyers and we are pleased to have reached a settlement. We shall be donating the money to the Journalists' Charity."
NAPA enlisted the services of specialist IP lawyer Bill Lister of Pannone LLP, who engaged with PA's lawyers. NAPA says this intervention resulted in a full written settlement with PA in which the wire service agreed to pay Solent and NAPA's legal costs in full.
Lister said: "Solent News, supported by NAPA, made a complaint of copyright infringement against PA which has been settled entirely to the satisfaction of Solent News and NAPA. This vindicates Solent News' original complaint."
NAPA president Denis Cassidy added: "The suggestion that copy can be lifted wholesale is completely wrong and there was an important matter of principle at stake.
"We supported Solent and when they found themselves ranged against the legal might of the national wire service. NAPA was pleased to be able to back the action of one of our members."