Fin 24 has responded to Moneyweb’s lawsuit that accuses the online business news site of copyright infringement and unlawful competition.
In its second statement since news of the case broke in September, Fin 24 has “strongly denied” the charges. It says it did not infringe copyright, compete unfairly or pass off others’ work as its own. “All Fin24’s content from third-party sources is clearly attributed and linked and Fin24 publishes content in line with internationally accepted norms and practices,” it said.
Earlier this week, Fin 24’s legal team filed its answer to Moneyweb’s charges. Essentially, Fin 24 says there is no copyright on facts, figures, names, places or even quotes in news stories.
It says Moneyweb’s case is based on seven stories and in each case, “Fin24 sourced news elements from Moneyweb and clearly indicated them as the source. This practice, of publishing news with accreditation, is an integral part of how news is disseminated and is done in all media including TV, radio, print and online. Even by Moneyweb”.
Fin 24’s legal team’s position is that discovery and reporting do not move public domain news elements into a monopolised private domain.
Esmaré Weideman, CEO of Media24, says that to suggest otherwise, as Moneyweb seems to be doing, would be contrary to the public interest in news dissemination. “It would lead to the illogical result where the first reporter can monopolise a news story and prevent another reporter from re-reporting the story’s core elements. Clearly this cannot be, and a contrary position would be a global first and destroy much of news reporting and many of today’s journalists’ jobs,” says Weideman.
In its papers, Fin 24 says the South African Copyright Act makes specific exception for copyright infringement for news reporting purposes and that public policy behind news dissemination is “so well recognised that South African law exempts from copyright infringement the copying from articles for news reporting purposes’.
It says no one has monopoly on the news. “Complying with copyright law and journalistic tradition, Fin24 gave full credit to Moneyweb by hyperlinking to the relevant Moneyweb articles. News24 editor-in-chief, Jannie Momberg, says that Moneyweb’s own figures show how successful this attribution was. Click-through referrals from the seven Fin24 articles ranged from 0.38% to 4.8%, significantly more than the usual 0.2% response to in-page online advertisements.
“Our attribution provided far more effective click-throughs to Moneyweb than Moneyweb could have bought,” says Momberg.
Moneyweb accused Fin24 of “plagiarism on an industrial scale” but Fin24 says plagiarism “isn’t a legal concept and had no place in court filings. In any event, plagiarism doesn’t occur when one gives attribution. Fin24 speculates that using the word 17 times in Moneyweb’s filing was for sensationalist, not legal, reasons”.
Fin24 says it published well over 10 000 articles, 11 of which had content sourced from Moneyweb and that it is therefore “ridiculous to suggest the 11 out of 10 000 is “on an industrial scale”.
Ryk van Niekerk, editor of Moneyweb, said he was meeting the company’s lawyers and would respond to Fin24’s case afterwards.
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