A group representing the major newspapers in the country yesterday clarified its position in relation to linking to newspaper websites, saying it had never objected to newspaper content being used by others for personal use.
The National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI), which represents 16 national daily, Sunday and weekly newspapers and 25 local and regional newspapers, said it is only where such content is used for commercial purposes that a copyright licence is required.
"This is no different than, for example, music publishers requiring individuals or companies who use music in connection with their business, to purchase a licence. Newspaper content is copyright in the same way that music is copyright," NNI said.
It said its position has not been properly represented in some of the discussion and commentary that has appeared in recent days.
"Secondly, NNI believes the display and transmission of hyperlinks does constitute an infringement of copyright.
"Again, there is a distinction between the sending and receipt of links for personal as opposed to commercial purposes, despite the fact that the same legal principles apply to both.
"NNI and its members have always understood that linking for personal use is part of how people share information online and our members have never objected to that. Linking for commercial purposes needs either the newspaper's prior permission or a licence.
"As a general point, when organisations wish to exploit the original, creative content generated by newspapers for their own commercial purposes, it is both in accordance with law, and entirely reasonable, that they should seek prior permission," NNI noted.
It said much of the commentary over the past few days has been in relation to the issue of copyright licensing for the display of links.
The statement added: "NNI . . . never have had any difficulty with people displaying links for personal use. NNI does, however, require commercial users who engage in republishing of newspaper content to be licensed."
It said NNI made a submission to the Copyright Review Committee "to the effect that our view of existing legislation is that the display and transmission of links does constitute an infringement of copyright and our existing copyright law should not be amended in the manner discussed in the consultation paper".
"It is important . . . to specifically note that the submission made on behalf of NNI to the Copyright Review Committee also expressly recognised that there is a distinction between the sending and receipt of links for personal use on the one hand and the sending and receipt of links for commercial purposes on the other.
"NNI specifically stated that its members accept that linking for personal use is a part of how individuals communicate on-line and that our members have no issue with that."