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Fin24 infringed Moneyweb’s copyright in one article

Court finds that original articles covering news events are protected by copyright.

The South Gauteng High Court found that Fin24 infringed the copyright of one Moneyweb article in 2013, after copying and republishing a substantial part of an original article, and was ordered to pay damages to Moneyweb.

Judge Daniel Berger did not find similar infringements in six other articles and ordered Moneyweb to pay 70% of Fin24’s costs.

These were the main findings in the copyright infringement case Moneyweb instituted in 2013 against Fin24, after Fin24 copied and republished content from various Moneyweb articles. Moneyweb argued that copyright was infringed in seven articles.

‘Angloplats’ Griffith responds to Shabangu outburst‘ is the article that Fin24 was found to have infringed on Moneyweb’s copyright.

Commenting on the ruling, Moneyweb editor Ryk van Niekerk said although it is disappointing that the court found that copyright was only infringed in one of the seven articles, “One article is one article too many. It constitutes theft as Fin24, which forms part of the largest media group in the country, illegally copied contents from a Moneyweb article. It is definitely not a victory for Fin24.”

This was in reference to Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman’s response that the ruling “is a huge victory for Fin24”. 

Van Niekerk added that the court vindicated Moneyweb’s position that original reports on news events are protected by copyright. “Fin24 contended that there is no copyright in reports about news events and if this was found to be true, it would have been devastating for journalism.”

Regarding the six articles in which the judge did not find infringements, Berger found that in four articles Moneyweb did not prove that they were original works and they therefore could not be protected by copyright. In the other two articles Moneyweb did prove that the articles were original works, but Berger found that Fin24 did not copy and republish substantial portions.

In the Anglo American Platinum story, the judge found that the article was an original work and that too much was copied and reproduced and therefore that copyright was infringed.

Berger struck out the affidavits of various editors of other media groups that News24’s official aggregation policy did not adhere to industry standards. The judge found that the affidavits should have been attached to the founding (first) affidavit and that they did not pertain to the actual articles relevant to the case.

The full judgement is available here.

News 24 editor Adriaan Basson, speaking for Media24, said the company is relieved by the judgement. He said Media24 always believed that it did not infringe Moneyweb’s copyright in all seven cited cases and the court vindicated this view.

“Significant investment was made to bolster News24’s original content and journalism,” says Basson. “The appointment of a 16-strong national team of journalists and multimedia content producers, in addition to the more than 60-strong editorial team we already had in our Cape Town and Johannesburg offices, strengthens our ability to deliver original content, breaking news and analysis to our readers….”

Watch Moneyweb’s video interview with Basson below:

Weideman said in a statement that the company took note of the court’s ruling that Fin24 had infringed copyright in one article. “We accept the court’s decision and pride ourselves on ethical journalistic practice. Overall this ruling is a huge victory for Fin24. It proves that aggregation and original reporting both have a place in modern journalism.

“The ruling vindicates our conviction that our conduct was fair and lawful,” says Weideman. “The fact that the court ordered Moneyweb to pay 70% of Media24’s cost speaks for itself.”

Discovery and reporting do not move public domain news elements into a monopolised private domain and to suggest otherwise, as Moneyweb did, would be contrary to the public interest in news dissemination, she added.

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And Fin24’s headline on this today reads: “Moneyweb’s plagiarism claims extravagant, rules judge”.

Amazing how headlines differ depending on one’s point of view. Sub-editors rule, viva!

Am disappointed for you, it should have gone in Moneyweb’s favour.

Another data point that supports the hypothesis that one should avoid litigation at all costs. And that justice is nowhere to be found, especially in South Africa.

Fin24 guilty on one count of Copyright Infringement, would be a better headline. The company can also be sued for the “Fin24 not guilty” misleading headlines being purveyed, since they are now also in contempt of court.

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