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Yahoo! Got Free Ride Plagiarising Works: SPH (ST)

BackDec 29, 2011

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) yesterday said that Internet firm Yahoo! had profited from a "free ride" by plagiarising and reproducing its news content without its permission.

The publicly listed media company said this in its rebuttal to Yahoo!'s defence against a lawsuit that SPH had brought against it.

Last month, SPH filed a writ of summons and a statement of claim against Yahoo!, citing as examples some 23 articles from its stable of newspapers that were allegedly substantially reproduced over a 12-month period on Yahoo! Southeast Asia's websites.

Yahoo! denied any such infringement, claiming it had done so, among other things, in the public interest.

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

In its papers filed at the High Court yesterday, it said that in reproducing news content without permission, Yahoo! intended to and did save itself time, labour and investment at the expense of SPH journalists, thereby enjoying a "free ride".

SPH asserted that Yahoo! had, over an extended period of time, "consistently and deliberately" committed plagiarism by substantially reproducing the words and expressions used in its articles without permission.

This substantial copying "extended beyond the reproduction of mere facts and information".

Among other things, it said, Yahoo! reproduced "the language (including by way of the reproduction of identical paragraphs, sentences, phrases and/or words and/or through the synonymous replacement of phrases and/or words), selection, arrangement and presentation" of SPH's articles.

Yahoo!'s actions were tantamount to an improper misappropriation of SPH's significant investments in assembling an independent news gathering and journalistic team, said the media company.

The United States-based company, in its defence to SPH's suit, had claimed that the alleged infringements related only to facts and information, which cannot be protected by copyright.

It added, in papers filed on Dec 13, that it was important that the public be kept informed of current events in Singapore.

It was in the public interest, therefore, that such news be disseminated and made available "as freely and as widely as possible" in a timely manner, it claimed.

However, SPH countered yesterday in its reply that, far from being in the public interest, the infringing acts were committed for commercial gain.

It was done to further "its vested financial interest, to direct and maximise traffic to its website in order to drive up its page views and advertising revenue".

SPH had previously said 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.

Yesterday, SPH also referred to the fact that last year, Yahoo! had sought to obtain a licence from SPH for the reproduction of its articles.

When negotiations broke down, Yahoo! nonetheless went ahead to substantially reproduce SPH's articles, which SPH said showed that Yahoo! was "deliberately and flagrantly" infringing its copyright for commercial gain.

In response to Yahoo!'s argument that the 23 articles cited made up only a very small proportion of the articles published by SPH newspapers, SPH reiterated that the 23 articles did not represent the full extent of Yahoo!'s infringing acts. SPH added that it would produce more evidence at the right juncture.

Yahoo! is represented by lawyers from ATMD Bird & Bird.

SPH, represented by WongPartnership, 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.

marclim@sph.com.sg



PROTECTING COPYRIGHT

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

SPH, in a statement released yesterday



ABOUT THE CASE

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) last month filed in the Singapore High Court a lawsuit against Yahoo!, alleging copyright infringement as it had allegedly reproduced news content from SPH's stable of newspapers without the company's permission.

The writ of summons and statement of claim were filed by SPH on Nov 18, and were served on Yahoo! Southeast Asia on Nov 21.

In its statement of claim, SPH cited, as examples, 23 articles from its newspapers which Yahoo! was alleged to have reproduced substantially on Yahoo! Southeast Asia's websites – including a section called "Latest Singapore News" – over a 12-month period.

This was done without the licence or authorisation of SPH.

Yahoo!, in its defence filed on Dec 13, denied infringing copyright laws and counter-sued. It cited two articles and a picture originally on its website which were then allegedly posted on SPH's citizen journalism website Stomp, as infringement of its copyright.

In its defence, Yahoo! claimed that the alleged infringements related only to facts and information, which cannot be protected by copyright, and that it was acting in the public interest.

Yesterday, SPH countered that far from being in the public interest, the infringing acts were committed to further its vested financial interest. They were done to direct and maximise traffic to Yahoo!'s websites in order to drive up its page views and advertising revenue.

It added that Yahoo! had obtained a "free ride" by reproducing its news content on its website without the company's consent.