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  1. Media Law
July 10, 2017updated 12 Jul 2017 3:30pm

Independent declines to pay for court story ‘lifted’ from Wales Online telling freelance: ‘There is no copyright in news’

By Dominic Ponsford

The Independent has declined to pay a freelance journalist for a court report it “lifted” from Wales Online telling him “there is no copyright in news”.

Glyn Bellis said he was the only journalist in court in Llandudno for the case of a 50-year-old man who placed barbed wire across a forest cycle path.

Bellis was paid for the original use of the story by Wales Online.

The story was then followed up by The Independent which appeared to take all the details of the case from the Wales Online report.

The Independent included a link to Wales Online in the fourth paragraph of its piece.

It then quoted extensively from evidence heard in court, apparently taking this from the Wales Online piece.

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The paper also used a police quote given to Bellis, with attribution to Wales Online.

Bellis told Press Gazette: “This is worse than when a newspaper claimed £3 was reasonable for a court story which had at least been provided by my agency. In this case the Independent has quite blatantly lifted a court story and refused to pay a very modest fee.

“It would be interesting to know how this title, which boasts of high journalistic standards, would have defended any complaint to IPSO.

“This kind of activity should be of concern not just to journalists but to the publisher’s rivals, too, because the Independent is trying to get a free service to attract web traffic and then advertising.

“Unlike the Independent, Wales Online does the honourable thing and pays for stories which we supply.

“I’m looking into my options. Court reporting requires some skill so I don’t believe the Independent can get away with stating ‘there is no copyright in news and we have not acted improperly’.

“In short, this is a question of journalistic ethics.”

The Independent has declined to pay an invoice sent in by Bellis for use of his story.

A spokesperson reiterated comments made to Bellis saying: “We based our report – written in our own words – on material previously published on the Wales Online website, as our piece made clear (with a link back to the Wales Online piece). There is no copyright in news and we have not acted improperly.

“The suggestion that our position is connected with our status as a digital publisher is plainly without foundation. Reference to IPSO is a very obvious red herring too.

“We are proud of our standards and of the progress which saw the Independent reach an average 6,577,317 unique browsers daily in May.”

The Independent – like The Guardian, Evening Standard and Financial Times – is not signed up to a press regulator.

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