Oh Hey Irish Newspaper Industry, Enjoy Your Death!!

Newspapers ramp up their own funeral preparations

We’ve all been aware of the decline of print in recent years as everyone moves towards digital, mobile, blah blah blah, but never has ignorance of the online news industry been more evident.

The NNI, who represents most newspapers in Ireland, have decided that a link to an article on one of their properties now constitutes copyright infringement.

Yup, you read that correctly.

Not only is this counter-intuitive, but it displays a frightening level of idiocy and lack of understanding as to how the internet, in general, works.

Links are votes – votes mean your site is trusted by “users”, and as such your site will become more visible, not only on other sites who link to you, but in the eyes of search engines (Google). This means you’ll appear in their results more often, and higher up the page (in a nutshell….). This brings traffic – and it is from this traffic that a huge percentage of online advertisers get their money.

So, the Irish Newspapers are making the decision to reduce/refuse free traffic, and subsequently slash their advertising revenues greatly, in some cases entirely.

Why? I still don’t know. Some have speculated that the newspaper industry has accepted defeat, and death, and are scrambling to recoup as much cash as they can before they shut up shop. Others see it as a cynical two fingers to the online community, and a childish swipe at those people the dinosaurs in power believe have “destroyed their business model”.

They Hate The Internet

Boo fucking hoo.

The only public instance of the newspapers actually chasing these imaginary fees are in relation to Women’s Aid, who, by NNI understanding, I now owe €300 for the privilege of linking to their site. I doubt they’ll chase it. In fact, if pushed, I’d say they’d appreciate the link, as there’s a small chance it’ll drive traffic to their site, or help with their search engine rankings.

They received a letter claiming that their use of a link to an article on one such newspaper’s website was a copyright issues, and “a licence is required to link directly to an online article even without uploading any of the content directly onto your own website.”

If this was the case, the entire internet would grind to a halt, and sink into the ground under the weight of billions upon billions of invoices. Think of the trees man!!!

The fee for one link is €300, and they have also come up with a handy pricing structure, which is nice of them;

1 – 5 €300.00
6 – 10 €500.00
11 – 15 €700.00
16 – 25 €950.00
26 – 50 €1,350.00
50 + Negotiable

So, broadsheet.ie, boards.ie, Google, Facebook (I’m not giving them a free link, not that they care…) – every site with decent UGC and visitor stats now “owe” the NNI a serious amount of cash.

Had the NNI pursued Facebook or Google, their letter would most likely have been ignored, and rightly so. However, to target a charity who deal with protecting women who have suffered abuse wreaks of cherry picking. A strongly worded legalese threat will most likely scare the pants off a small, under-funded charity – a tech-behemoth like FB or Google would laugh them out of town, if they even bothered reading it.

So, not only is the belief that they are owed something incredibly stupid, their selection of targets is also shameful, cowardly and typical of the outdated and ignorant approach many powerful people in this country take on issues of progress and evolution – specifically, change.

Newspapers need traffic, and free traffic is the best of all. Free traffic means advertisers pay them more, which ultimately means free revenue – not revenue gained by bullying charities into quick payouts based on fear and misunderstanding.

McGarr Solicitors were contacted by WomensAid, and have posted details here. You can see from the comments that very few people agree, let alone understand the decisions taken by the NNI, or Newspaper Licencing Ireland LTD, or whatever guise they wish to use. Both the NNI and the NLI have the same address by the way, in Ballsbridge don’t you know. Another Irish-ism – by creating two entities to line the same man’s pockets, they can direct any interrogation, criticism or questioning between each other, so people eventually give up or accept defeat. Lovely stuff. Give McGarr’s article a read for a concise (and non-ranting) summary of what the feck is going on.

This can only end one way – the sites under the control of the NNI will lose traffic, revenue and visits – and the newspaper organisation itself will eventually collapse, because print revenue alone can’t sustain these monuments much longer.

I won’t mourn their death either. This decision mirrors (in idiocy, not scale) the bank bailout, of which I was no fan either. If companies, banks, newspapers etc make bad decisions which results in collapse, then it is only natural for them to die.

I just hope it happens soon, so no further charitable organisations, or indeed genuine and useful public resources, need to suffer the insult of being asked, or told, that in order to link to an article which lives in the free space of the internet and in most cases refers to them, or is at least in the interests of public discussion, a licence fee is required.

Where will it stop? Am I allowed tell a friend that CarPhoneWarehouse have great deals on Samsung Galaxy IIIs? Will they then seek a licence fee from me because I mentioned and referred to them, albeit without stealing their content? Will my electrician mate bill me when I tell someone in work that I know a guy who can re-wire his living room?

Absolute nonsense.

Here’s the NNI’s official press release on the issue.
This bit is a lie;

We understand that some people do not agree with that interpretation of the law. Equally, there are others who do agree with it.

“Equally”, to me, implies that an equal number of people agree with their stance. That is absolute and utter bullshit, irony at the highest level. Do the NNI check their press releases for accuracy at all? The briefest of glances at any discussion regarding this will show clearly that the only people who support their decisions are trolls, journalists who don’t fully understand the link-based nature of the web, and non-journalists who’ve completely misunderstood the situation, thinking it to be a basic copyright issue.

This bit is also completely wrong:

Many website operators also specifically either limit linking to their website when it is for a commercial purpose, or entirely preclude it.

What? Really? It’s the first I’ve ever heard of it. Unless they’re referring to illegal weapons wholesalers or online drug dealers, it’s nonsense, and shows a totally skewed view of the online world. How on earth can any website limit other sites linking to it? Is this press release aimed at people who know nothing about the internet?

I’ve ripped this next image straight from the NNI website – let’s see how they deal with that, something which is a lot closer to genuine copyright infringement.

National Newspapers of Ireland

The NNI conclusion, if taken in isolation, doesn’t seem too far off what should be true – if an organisation wants to use their content, they must pay. Grand – I agree. However, this must be a deliberate attempt to shift attention from the real issue here – they would like a link, not the actual content, to fall under the same category.

Greedy, stupid, wrong, and unfortunately very, very Irish.

To conclude, NNI/NLI – you are a bunch of short sighted idiots, as are all those who agree with your position, and I hope you push on with this “project”, as it’ll sooner or later result in closure, and a vacuum which will be filled by real online news sources who deserve our attention and respect, and in turn respect their readers more than you ever have.

Fair play to the Irish media outlets who have covered the story, or at least allowed free discussion, as none of the major ones have. Again, this is typically Irish, almost Church-like in its nature. While the world mocks little Ireland’s decisions, we bury our heads in the sand.

Slight correction – just discovered Simon McGarr’s interview on Rte Morning Ireland or whatever it’s called…..Good on ya Simon. It appears the NNI/NLI have “eased” their position – if you’re totally wrong, that can sometimes be a hard thing to do.

Ah well, the final death-throws of a dying breed appear to be done. It’s a shame we all had to witness it in public, and that the world saw this embarrassing episode.


  1. Would follow your blog if you enabled email follow :)

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