Moneyweb vs Fin24 copyright infringement case has a verdict

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has struck down allegations by business publication Moneyweb that its rival Fin24 is guilty of copyright infringement.

Acting Judge Daniel Berger on Thursday handed down judgment in the landmark legal battle, which stemmed from complaints lodged by Caxton-owned Moneyweb in September 2013.

Berger said Moneyweb has to pay 70% of Fin24’s legal costs.

While Moneyweb alleged that Fin24 had infringed on seven articles, in his judgment, Berger said Fin24 only infringed in one article about Amplats.

The judgment comes a year after the matter was heard in the South Gauteng High Court in May 2015.

Moneyweb’s case centred on an allegation that Fin24 aggregated up to eight of its articles unlawfully. Moneyweb editor Ryk van Niekerk accused Fin24 of committing “plagiarism on an industrial scale”.

Moneyweb’s lawyer Philip Ginsburg SC further argued in court last year that Fin24 must remove the articles in question from its website and pay damages at a later date.

Fin24, though, rejected the claims as false while Media24’s counsel Cedrick Puckrin SC argued that there is no copyright or exclusivity in news items.

And on Thursday, Judge Berger found in favour of Fin24.

The Moneyweb-Fin24 has sparked debate over how journalistic works should be produced in South Africa.

The case has also shone a spotlight on South Africa’s Copyright Act of 1978, which Media24’s legal counsel last year argued was outdated for the era of online news.

Section 12(8)a of the Act excludes certain official texts from copyright protection such as laws, speeches of a political nature, or ”in the news of the day that are mere items of press information”.

News24

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