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June 9, 2014updated 16 Jun 2014 2:43pm

News Corp starts legal action as Australian editor brands Mail Online ‘copy snatchers and parasites’

By Dominic Ponsford

News Corp is threatening to sue Mail Online for breach of copyright in Australia.

News Corp Australia’s lawyers wrote to Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke on Friday listing 10 instances were it alleges Mail Online has copied articles from News Corp titles.

Mail Online launched an Australia edition in January this year as part of a bid to grow its global traffic. In April it averaged 10.9m unique browsers per day worldwide, of which 6.3m were outside the UK.

According to News Corp-owned daily The Australian, Mail Online is accused of “blatantly lifting content” from Australian titles.

It said: “In most cases, Daily Mail Online, which is a partnership ­between Nine’s digital arm Mi9 and the Daily Mail Trust, provided only a single attribution before large parts of the story, and in some cases the accompanying graphics were reproduced on the website under another journalist’s byline…

"On June 1, The Daily Telegraph’s sports editor-at-large, Phil Rothfield, exclusively revealed that former Olympic swimming champion Ian Thorpe was out of rehabilitation and would be a commentator at the Commonwealth Games. Mail Online ripped off the story almost word for word, publishing the precise quotes that Rothfield, a journalist with 37 years’ experience, had obtained from Thorpe’s manager."

News Corp Australia has asked Mail Online for a legal undertaking that it will stop copying original content from its journalists by Thursday this week otherwise it will sue for breach of copyright.

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Whereas the Australian Daily Telegraph has a metered paywall, Mail Online is free.

Daily Telegraph editor Paul Whittaker told The Australian: "They might acknowledge the source of a story on occasion but that does not give them carte blanche to take reams of our ­reporting.

“The Mail Online has serious form on these issues worldwide and it seems they are bringing that same low-rent brand of journalism to Australia. They are acting like copy snatchers and parasites who live off real reporters’ legwork and dedication."

According to The Australian, Clarke's spokesman, Sean Walsh, responded to its reporter Sharri Markson's request for a comment by asking her: "Is this the same Sharri Markson who told me she should be the editor of the Daily Mail Australia?"

Markson said in response to The Australian: “I was not aware at the time that the job of editing The Daily Mail was to lift content produced by other journalists and editors.”

After asking more questions, the spokesman added: "Our quote still stands. If you don’t publish it in full we will ensure it is published elsewhere."

Australian editor Clive Mathieson, said of the response: “This is nothing more than a grubby attempt to avoid answering legitimate questions.”

Earlier this year, News UK chief executive Mike Darcey said Mail Online "shouldn’t be confused with a business based on professional journalism".

He said: “It is largely a redistributor, rather than a generator, copying and re-writing content from social media sites, and from other traditional news outlets, including The Sun."

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