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SPH Sues Yahoo! for Infringing Copyright / Case Against Yahoo! 'May Be Landmark' (ST)

BackNov 23, 2011

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) has filed a copyright infringement suit against Yahoo! – alleging that the search giant reproduced news content from SPH's stable of newspapers without its permission.

The lawsuit, pitting a predominantly traditional media owner against a new media firm, is believed to be the first of its kind here.

The writ of summons and statement of claim were filed by SPH in the Singapore High Court last Friday, and on Monday were served on Yahoo! Southeast Asia.

Yahoo! – represented by lawyers from Bird & Bird LLP {SEE CORRECTION ABOVE} – responded to the lawsuit yesterday and has up till Dec 13 to file its defence.

In its statement of claim, SPH cited, as examples, 23 articles from its newspapers which Yahoo! was alleged to have reproduced substantially over a 12-month period. This was done without the licence or authorisation of the Singapore-listed media group.

The articles, including political and crime stories, were first published in the print editions of The Straits Times, The New Paper and My Paper between Nov 16 last year and Oct 20 this year.

They were allegedly used on Yahoo! Southeast Asia's websites, including a section called "Latest Singapore News".

Citing an independent survey, Yahoo! had in the past touted its South-east Asia sites as the "first choice information source" for Internet users seeking news on this year's Singapore general election.

Its news websites provide mainly free daily news reports on Singapore and, like The Straits Times Breaking News website, is among one of the top news sites here.

Content in The Straits Times print edition, which is available for sale and subscription, is also available online, including through iPhone and iPad apps for a fee.

Breaking news on the apps and online, however, remains free.

The latest Nielsen readership survey, released last month, puts The Straits Times' daily readership at an estimated 1.346 million.

In its statement of claim, SPH alleged that Yahoo! relied on the 23 articles to provide content on the Internet firm's own website.

SPH, represented by Wong Partnership, also said in the court papers that to the best of its knowledge, Yahoo! generates revenue by marketing and selling advertising space on its website. This includes revenue from advertisers each time a visitor clicks on an advertisement displayed, it is believed.

Yahoo! had denied any copyright infringements in an earlier letter, and a writ was issued.

Despite SPH's request to cease from further infringing acts, the statement of claim added, substantial reproductions of the media company's content continue to be available on Yahoo! Southeast Asia's sites.

SPH is asking the court to declare that Yahoo! Southeast Asia has infringed on its content, an injunction against the company from continuing the infringement, and damages.

Media experts say this latest copyright infringement lawsuit is possibly a landmark case.

Asked if it may have an impact on how news websites operate, Professor Ang Peng Hwa, director of the Singapore Internet Research Centre at Nanyang Technological University, said: "It could set some precedent, depending on what comes out."

When contacted last night, Yahoo! Southeast Asia managing editor Alan Soon declined comment.