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SPH to Fight Yahoo Over Copyright Claims (BT)

BackDec 29, 2011

"Newspaper group says Internet giant copied more than just facts

[SINGAPORE] Singapore Press Holdings will strenuously pursue its copyright claims against Yahoo Southeast Asia, the newspaper publisher said on Wednesday.

SPH alleged in court filings that the Internet giant plagiarised more than just facts and information, and may have contrived to create a counterclaim.

In the latest volley between the two media giants, newspaper publisher SPH said it was prepared for a fight.

"SPH is determined to pursue this suit vigorously and to protect its copyrighted works," SPH said in a statement. "It cannot allow a third party to plagiarise its works without regard to the effort and resources that go into producing its content."

Yahoo Southeast Asia declined to comment.

In its defence to SPH's initial claims from November, Yahoo on Dec 13 said that it had fairly dealt with the disputed material, and that it was reporting factual current events, which cannot be copyrighted.

But on Wednesday, SPH, which owns BT, said the material that had been copied went beyond just facts and information. SPH included in its filings side-by-side comparisons of the disputed works that allegedly "show the substantial reproductions".

Yahoo had also said that any use of the disputed articles did not have significant impact on SPH's business.

But SPH said Yahoo sought to get a "free ride", and the Internet portal's acts "amounted to disguised competition for rival purposes . . . to attract readers away from the Plaintiff's newspapers, Website and/or applications".

Yahoo had also said that it was SPH that had terminated talks on a licensing deal in 2010.

SPH acknowledged that there had been discussions on a deal. But SPH said that despite its knowledge of the existence of SPH's copyright in the articles, Yahoo went on to substantially reproduce them.

Yahoo had also countersued SPH, alleging that SPH had used three Yahoo works without permission on the SPH-run Stomp citizen-journalism site.

SPH replied on Wednesday that Stomp lets third-party users contribute content, and SPH had no reason to believe that the three works in question were allegedly infringing.

SPH also alleged that Yahoo had only acquired the relevant rights to claim on those three works a day before filing the countersuit. SPH argued that doing so was "contriving a counterclaim".

The dispute, if it goes before the courts, could be a landmark case for copyright law in Singapore, law professor Burton Ong of the National University of Singapore told BT before the latest filing. "Apart from its legal significance in terms of clarifying the scope of the law – that itself is significant because fair dealing definitely is the major counterweight . . . From a practical business perspective, I think it's also going to be pretty significant because it gives copyright holders an opportunity to evaluate how far they should use their copyright in terms of their strategy, their business model," he said.

SPH fired the opening salvo in November, filing a court claim that alleged that Yahoo had knowingly and systematically reproduced works owned by SPH on Yahoo Websites.

SPH cited as examples 23 of its articles that had allegedly been copied without approval by employees, agents or sub-contractors of Yahoo.