Moneyweb says it has launched an application in the Gauteng South High Court against Naspers owned Fin24 for alleged plagiarism, copyright infringement and unfair competition.
Ryk van Niekerk, managing editor at Moneyweb said that the application is the first of its kind in South Africa, “and I hope it will set legal precedent of so-called fair use and content aggregation policies”.
He claims that Fin24’s current modus operandi and interpretation of fair use principles pose a serious threat to future investment into original content and investigative journalism. “This will affect every single publisher in the country,” van Niekerk said.
“The Moneyweb application concerns a series of articles written by Moneyweb journalists and contributors, which Fin24 copied, either fully or partially, and published unlawfully.
“The conduct of Fin24 amounts to systematic plagiarism on an industrial scale and forms a core part of its business model in an effort to gain a commercial advantage for itself,” van Niekerk said.
Moneyweb said it hoped to seek clarity from the courts as to where the line is to be drawn between plagiarism and fair usage of the work of others, particularly where it relates to the online space.
“Moneyweb’s business model is quite simple. We attract visitors to the website by the publication of unique and original content. This demands significant investment in editorial content. This content is available for free to our community, and we pay our bills, or at least try to, by the serving of digital advertising,” van Niekerk stated.
The editor noted that Fin24 follows a low-cost business model, “where there is virtually no investment in original and unique content. Fin24 predominantly publishes inexpensive syndicated wire copy from SAPA, Reuters and AFP”.
Van Niekerk accused Fin24 of sourcing articles from other news sites, and then copying the article, “either in full or in significant part”, presenting it on its own site.
“There is usually one reference to the source website and a link to the original article – though it is never indicated to the reader that the full original article is available via the link.
“We feel that this represents an infringement of Moneyweb’s copyright,” van Niekerk said.
The editor stressed that Fin24 was operating unlawfully as it operates in direct competition with Moneyweb. “This approach denies Moneyweb additional traffic to its website, and revenue as advertising is based on the number of page views. Furthermore, Fin24 receives additional page views and therefore profits from our investment in the content,” he said.
Moneyweb pointed out that financial websites including BDLive, IOL and MyBroadband are also victims.
“Moneyweb has asked the court to declare Fin24’s publication of the relevant articles unlawful and to compel Fin24 to remove these articles from its website. We have also asked for declaration that Fin24 is liable for damages and that a separate damage enquiry be held to determine the amount,” van Niekerk said.