The Government is to pay royalties for copying newspaper and magazine articles and pages from books, it was announced yesterday.
The royalties are one cent an A4 page for newspapers, four cents for magazines, and five cents for books and 12 cents for journals.
The payment is expected to run to millions of dollars a year. Government sources from a number of departments could not hazard a more precise guess at how many pages are copied by the Government.
The per-page rule for newspapers is for as much material on a newspaper page as will fit on an A4 page.
Government departments have a right to copy the material, and have been doing so for years, but must negotiate with copyright owners to collect a fee. To date they had not.
The Attorney-General, Michael Duffy, said the Government had reached agreement with the Copyright Agency Ltd which has been licensed by authors and authors’ agents to collect the fee of their behalf. The executive director of CAL, Michael Fraser, said yesterday that the fees would be distributed according to sampling. The agreement did not cover the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade.
For newspapers and magazines, CAL got a licence agreement from a few individual journalists and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, embracing the what was the Australian Journalists’ Association before union amalgamation.
The Media Alliance says its constitution permits it to collect copyright on behalf of its 10,000 members.
However, the arrangement is likely to be challenged by media proprietors who say they own much or all of the copyright in newspapers and magazines and they have not given permission to CAL to license the copying of their material.
CAL has also signed an agreement with a media monitoring company to get licence fees for the copying newspaper articles.
Money from this will also be passed to the Media Alliance and a limited number of individual journalists.
The Information Factory in Melbourne is to pay CAL 5 per cent of its service fee for copying newspaper articles, basically that means nearly 5 per cent of its turnover.
It is understood that the monitoring industry does about $5 million worth of business in copying newspaper articles a year, so about $250,000 in copyright fees will be collected.
Educational institutions already pay CAL for copying newspapers and much of the money is passed on to the Media Alliance.
The amount of money at stake could further increase as more newspapers go into providing information through databases. The Media Alliance says journalists own the copyright in articles in databases.
Mr Fraser said he expected other media monitors to follow the Information Factory, except Neville Jeffress Pidler which is litigating.
Mr Fraser said he understood that the Media Alliance would spend the money on copyright-related matters, but if individual journalists wanted to claim their share, they could.
However, he said that newspaper articles were so ephemeral and parochial that it was difficult to determine individual claims.
CAL would collect licence fees from monitoring companies, educational institutions and government departments for its members, including the Media Alliance, by sampling. Media monitoring companies would either supply samples of copied work or provide a full list. CAL would not give licences for the copying of articles not covered by its agreement with the Media Alliance. These include articles by non-alliance members, such as contributors, letter-writers and executives and articles from agencies.
Individual journalists could join CAL directly and get paid for their work if they were copied or turned up in sampling. Some big-name journalists, such as Ross Gittins and Max Walsh, had done so and were receiving payments independently of the AJA.
Neville Jeffress Pidler has about 60 per cent of the media monitoring market. Several journalists have taken it to court for copying their work and judgment is awaited. An earlier judgment indicated that as the Copyright Act stood, journalists had the copyright in articles for the purposes of media monitoring. At present the company is not copying articles, but providing originals.
Newspaper proprietors says the law giving journalists copyright was limited anyway. The proprietors owned edition rights (for the costly process in piecing the words into type). The rights given in 1968 were never intended to give journalists copyright for photocopying and databases which had not been invented or not extensively used when the Act was passed. It was only intended to give them the right to publish books of their own work. They say they provide salaries and work facilities to journalists who should be treated like employees in other industries who generally do not get copyright for works produced in their employment.
Media monitors are concerned that they have no right to copy newspapers. Copyright owners can deny them the right to copy, no matter what the fee offered. They say this is a threat to their business and puts them in a weak bargaining position.
Terry Lawrence, from the Information Factory, said he thought media monitors should have the right to copy subject to a fee being set by a tribunal. He thought the 5 per cent too high, but had to live with it.
He thought the Government should act in the interests of ensuring information distribution was not inhibited. But the Government showed no inclination to act. He agreed to the 5 per cent to get away from expensive litigation so he could get on with his business.