SPH Responds to Cupcake Controversy (ST)

BackJul 07, 2012

Cake-shop owner has to pay for commercial use of articles, it explains

MEDIA company Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has made it clear that it does not object to individuals reproducing its articles for personal use.

But it does expect to be paid licensing fees if its articles are reproduced, and its copyright exploited, for commercial purposes.

It posted this on its Facebook page last night in response to an online controversy over an earlier posting by celebrity cupcake-shop owner Daniel Ong.

He aired his displeasure after being asked to pay licensing and investigation fees for reproducing SPH articles about his bakery, Twelve Cupcakes, on its website.

The two articles, from Chinese evening paper Shin Min Daily News and Simply Her magazine, were reproduced in full.

Posting on Facebook and Twitter, Mr Ong said he was asked to pay $535 for each article that he or his wife Jaime had put up, as well as a $214 "investigative fee".

He claimed he was asked to pay "almost $3,000", but SPH said this was not the case.

"We help spread the word about the article... they get more readers and readership... Everyone happy, no?" Mr Ong said.

His Facebook posting on Thursday night garnered more than 1,600 "likes" and 400 comments.

In its response last night, SPH reiterated that, under copyright law, copyright in a piece of work belongs to the author and not to the person who provided information or granted an interview.

"In Mr Daniel Ong's case, he and his wife granted interviews to Singapore Press Holdings' newspapers and magazines.

"After the articles were published, he reproduced the articles from Shin Min Daily News and Simply Her on his business website – www.twelvecupcakes. com," it said.

SPH confirmed that hawker stalls and cafes can frame up an actual print article for display, but copying it would constitute an infringement of copyright.

Copyright lawyers said yesterday that the law is clear that copyright in a newspaper story belongs not to the one being interviewed, but to the newspaper.

And the newspaper is entitled to control how the article is used, which includes asking for licensing fees, said Mr Lam Chung Nian, head of the intellectual property media and technology practice at law firm WongPartnership.

Mr Bryan Tan of Keystone Law Corp added it is common practice to seek licensing fees for content. As for comments online about a big company intimidating a small one, he added: "I can understand the sentiment, but the same situation would apply to a small company whose work has been taken by a big one."

SPH's licensing fees vary but top out at $500 without GST, said its spokesman.