Media & PR

Should it be illegal to publicise someone else's products?

Supposing someone decides – openly and honestly – to publicise your products. They point people at your products and they are a reputable outfit themselves.

What are the circumstances in which you send them a threatening legal letter demanding the cease, er…, providing you with free advertising for your products?

It’s pretty hard to think of any. Certainly if it wasn’t a reputable outfit, I can understand a desire to get the advertising ended. But if it is?

Which all makes the efforts of some parts of the newspaper industry to curb or close the NewsNow news aggregator very odd. You can read about the legal threats here and if you look at the NewsNow site, you’ll see that they pull headlines from news sources which, when clicked on, take you to the original news source.

In other words, they are advertising the stories from those news outlets and driving more traffic to them. Me? I’d be grateful for that service, not attacking it. Attacks should be restricted to people who lift large chunks of your content too – because they take traffic away, not generate more.

8 responses to “Should it be illegal to publicise someone else's products?”

  1. Good point. I blogged about this a few days ago. It’s bizarre. If the newspaper industry put as much energy into finding ways to complement blogosphere etc rather than control it, they might be in a healthier state. Also reprehensible that Guardian is in on this given help they got from blogosphere on Trafigura.

  2. We were thrilled beyond measure when we finally got one of our sites, BritsOnPole, listed on it. I can’t understand the newspapers’ perspective on this one, even as an ex-journalist myself.

    They’re not serving up any of the publishers’ content – no teaser paragraph or summary – so if you’re interested in the headline you HAVE to go to the publisher’s site to read the story.

    I suppose they figure that if someone’s building a business based on linking then links must be a commodity they should charge for. But it’s like trying to charge the council for putting a road and a sign up pointing to your shop.

    Odd, and pointlessly self-destructive.

  3. “I suppose they figure that if someone’s building a business based on linking then links must be a commodity they should charge for”

    Isn’t the point here though that in a B2B environment, via products like Nexis, newspapers *have* been able to charge for links and syndication for many years?

    • You may well know more about this than I do Martin, but I’m not sure that is the case? My experience of those other services is that they offer much more than headline and link (e.g. they offer the full text of the story within their own systems, and do analysis, collation etc based on holding that data).

      So I don’t see that NewsNow cuts into that business as one is about link and headline only whilst the other is about much fuller data?

  4. Possibly Martin, though if that’s the case it’s not been put very clearly or effectively in the coverage I’ve read. It does also raise the question about the rights and wrongs of the NLA licensing scheme…

  5. I have no insider knowledge, and I may very well be putting 2 and 2 together and making 5, but in public we only seem to be seeing one side of the correspondence. NewsNow assert in their FAQ that there is an ‘artificial distinction’ between free and paid for services – I’d say it was quite a major distinction if you are not paying for your source material. As for the legal position of NLA Licensing – and I am not a lawyer – I assume it falls under enforcing ‘fair use’. Copying one or two articles from The Times for the local parish newsletter is one thing, building a entire subscription-based business on the back of reproducing someone else’s copyright content is a different thing entirely.

  6. I have previously asked about seeing the correspondence and will blog further about it if I get a positive reply, though given legal action is involved I’m not too surprised if some stuff is being confidential (which is why I didn’t hold off blogging on the topic).

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