Moneyweb managing editor, Ryk van Niekerk, says that the case against Naspers subsidiary, Fin24, is heading to the South Gauteng High Court, after the group filed a replying affidavit last week.
The affidavit is in response to Fin24’s defence against Moneyweb’s initial application filed in the Gauteng South High Court in September last year for alleged plagiarism, copyright infringement and unfair competition.
Moneyweb has accused Fin24 of unlawfully copying eight of its articles between July 2012 and July 2013, “implementing a low-cost content aggregation strategy and piggy-backing on the efforts of Moneyweb, which invests in original journalism”.
Fin24, however, denies the charges, arguing that there is no copyright or exclusivity in news items.
In an article on Moneyweb on Monday (25 August), van Niekerk said: “The outcome of the case could affect the future of journalism in South Africa.”
He said that editors representing in excess of 30 news titles have all signed affidavits that support Moneyweb by denouncing the aggregation policy of 24.com.
Moneyweb allies include:
- Charmaine Naidoo (Times Media Group);
- Karima Brown (Independent Group);
- Ellis Mnyandu (Business Report, Independent Newspapers’ financial insert);
- Steven Motale (The Citizen);
- Branko Brkic (Daily Maverick);
- Clive Lotter (freelance body, Safrea).
“These deponents represent a significant number of stakeholders in the South African media and they distance themselves from several statements relating to industry practice put forward by editor-in-chief of 24.com Jannie Momberg, in his answering affidavit,” van Niekerk said.
Moneyweb’s editor said that Fin24’s apparently simple aggregation policy, “has dire consequences for the whole industry”.
“We argue that what the policy does is permit a form of illegitimate and unlawful copying from third parties and it becomes in effect a licence to plagiarise.”
Moneyweb said it is also apposed to Fin24’s contention that there is no copyright in news reports.
“Anyone even remotely involved in media will know that it takes substantial creative expression and skill to produce news articles, not only from the journalist but also from production editors,” van Niekerk said.
He said that a further contentious view is that a hyperlink in a copied article, linking back to the original article, “satisfies the fair dealing provision in the Copyright Act”.
“A hyperlink is not a substitute for proper attribution,” he said.
“South Africa needs a strong media, and if this aggregation model of the dominant publisher is allowed to continue, it will have an extremely negative impact on the industry,” van Niekerk said.