Agency backlash over lack of payment for web usage

News agencies are seeking new terms from newspapers after complaining that stories are being used online without payment.

Under established protocol press agencies supply copy and photographs to newsrooms on spec, which newspapers pay for under a self-billing system. But agencies have been increasingly complaining that their copy or pictures has been appearing on newspapers' websites without any payment being volunteered.

The National Association of Press Agencies secretary Matthew Bell, of Ferrari News Agency, said: "Agency pictures that have gone into newspaper offices on spec are just being used on newspaper web sites with no money whatsoever being paid for them."

Bell added: "We've let it go up to now because we realise that it's in our interests for newspaper web sites to be successful. We realise, as everyone else does, that sales of newspapers in the main are falling and therefore the success of newspaper web sites are ultimately going to have positive effect for us. We're not being old dinosaur sticks in the mud. We want news web sites to work because if they do take off, it's going to safeguard the future of what we do."

Napa members have also complained about newspapers' practice of repurposing print stories for the web without permission or additional payment.

Mark Solomons, of Specialist News Service, said: "According to legal advice we've had, the web site is a separate publication, it comes out at different times and often has a separate editor. Most newspaper sites are now very established, and are using a lot of copy that we supplied.

"Unlike in newsprint, where it appears for one day and disappears, stories on the web appear there forever in archives. Some of them are now talking about charging for these archives. "They are making money off us left, right and centre — and we're not seeing a penny of it."

It will be up to individual agencies to adopt the Napa suggested terms, which have not yet been finalised.

Bell said his agency will insist on full payment for any material used only online, and might also seek a top-up charge of up to 20 per cent for the use of any copy or pictures repurposed for a second medium.


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