Back to the dark ages with pay per click for PRs

You might remember the huge kerfuffle last summer about the Associated Press and its plans to charge bloggers on a pay-per-word basis every time a blogger used any content from an AP story in a blog post.

So, for instance, if you grabbed a paragraph of text and pasted it into your blog post – even with full attribution and a link to the original content – you’d have to have an agreement in place with the AP first, never mind fair use and fair dealing practices.

The AP’s stated objectives at the time were to do with things like protecting intellectual property rights.

The cack-handed way they went about it, though, alienated just about the whole blogosphere.

Looks like something even worse is brewing in the UK with moves by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) to introduce a scale of charges for anyone in the PR business who uses a link on their own website to any mainstream media content elsewhere online.

Come again? They’re going to charge you just for linking?

PR Week reported on this on June 23 but it doesn’t seem to have got anyone’s attention (I missed it). PR Bristol has the details:

The NLA are introducing a new, additional set of charges relating to coverage on the web. This WILL effect us as PRs!!

  1. We will be charged for not only web coverage we forward or print but even the sending of a URL (web link) to client
  2. Clients will also be charged for the receipt of the same
  3. If you forward a link and also print  / copy the piece you will be charged twice
  4. From Sept 09 cuttings agencies will be charged this new fee so it’s likely their charges to us will increase
  5. From Jan 10 all PR Agencies will be charged as will all  clients who are forwarded links
  6. The newspapers are fully behind these new charges (it is revenue for them)
  7. It appears this is not a global introduction – just in the UK

This is to do with a new service from the NLA called eClips Web which the NLA describes as:

[…] a reliable, publisher controlled database of website content, which takes feeds directly from publisher content management systems. eClips Web will enable media monitoring companies to offer an improved service to their clients with greater depth of information, permanence and faster delivery.

And there’s a snazzy diagram to explain it:


In his post (which is where I heard about it), Stephen Waddington has some good questions:

[…] When I share the results of Google News search or a RSS aggregator that has pulled in content from national media with colleagues and clients will they need to pay per click?

And what of the future of the Guardian Open Platform? Will its commercial partners now need to pay to republish content?

And what about Twitter? Every time I mention a newspaper story and add my shortcut URL – and I do that a lot – does that count?

If it does, then this idea is a step right back into the dark ages.

Looks like a great topic to see some discussion among the UK PR community. A good start at PR Bristol.

(Dinosaur pic courtesy Raffles Museum news under Creative Commons license.)

[Update July 13] Shel and I discussed this topic in today’s episode of the FIR podcast.