The dispute between Moneyweb and Fin24 over content aggregation and copyright infringement, and the looming legal action flowing from this dispute, has disturbing implications for the freelance writing industry, says industry body Southern African Freelancers’ Association (Safrea). The outcome will impact on the “financial survival of the writers who provide the media groups concerned with valuable content for their print and digital publications.”, Safrea says.
Chairperson of Safrea, Helen Ueckermann, believes the outcome is so important that freelancers need to to be heard in the action, perhaps in the role of an amicus curiae (friend of the court).
“Both Moneyweb and Media24 are respected providers of work to our members; we make no comment on the rights and wrongs of their current dispute,” says Ueckermann. “We are, however, concerned with the matter of copyright. We need clarification about who has the right to pass on work which has been commissioned, to whom and with what financial remuneration. The rights of the freelancers, who retain copyright in their work (unless they agreed to the contrary at the time of commissioning), must be protected.
“We have faith in the legal system and welcome the fact that this issue is enjoying wide public scrutiny. The outcome of this case will have a profound effect on the freelance industry in South Africa,” she says.
Geof Kirby, senior member of Safrea, says the case centres on commercial content aggregation and curation, established content marketing practices for both print and digital media. “They are part of paid-for syndication, which requires an acknowledgement of source and payment. However, a business model that hardly acknowledges source and creator and doesn’t pay them goes beyond normal exploitation of the work and unreasonably prejudices the legitimate interests of the copyright owner,” he says.