I recently had a Rural PR Academy member approached by the NLA (Newspaper Licensing Agency) in regard to purchasing a licence to reproduce articles on their websites and social media, so they asked me what it meant.

You may have noticed that I rarely share images or links to articles that feature my clients. It’s not that they don’t exist (I’d be a pretty rubbish PR if they didn’t), but it’s because I don’t have a licence to share them… instead I opt to say “as seen in” or “as featured in” with the name of the title of the newspaper or magazine.

In order to share articles published in UK newspapers, magazines or online, you actually need a licence - or possibly even two - one from the NLA and one from the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency). That’s even if you have permission from the journalist or editor to share it, it’s about your business, you’ve written the article yourself or even if it was cut and pasted from a press release you provided (which is the most frustrating thing for PRs).

So why do you need a licence?

In order to understand what these licenses are, you first need an understanding of UK copyright law which, fortunately, was drilled into me as a trainee journalist and should be well-versed by any PR worth their salt.

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, intellectual property is automatically protected for 70 years after the creator’s death, unless the owner gives specific permission for it to be wavered. In this case, the intellectual property belongs to the publisher. Not the editor and not the journalist who wrote the article. By writing for the publisher they give them the copyright to their intellectual property.

The NLA and CLA basically exist to protect the intellectual property of the publisher and collect royalties on their behalf if there’s a breach.

If you break the law, you will be slapped with a hefty fine which will be back-dated to cover each and every breach of copyright.

So, say you share a link on your social media, which is then shared 20 times. That counts as 21 breaches of copyright.

Therefore, you need permission of the publisher in order to recirculate their property, ie any articles they publish, which is why the NLA and CLA were founded - in theory, it’s to make it easier for individual businesses to get that permission by way of one all-inclusive licence.

What I don’t personally understand is why there are two agencies effectively doing the same thing… that will forever remain a mystery. But if the publisher is a member of both, you could end up being fined twice.

So let’s look at the different licences in a bit more detail.

The NLA is a member organisation of thousands of newspapers, magazines and websites and states that you need a licence to reproduce content from its members for:

  • Circulation of newspaper or magazine articles (including headlines and text extracts) by email within a company

  • Copying of articles onto internal computer drives

  • Scanning of newspaper or magazine articles 

  • Digitally copying articles from a newspaper or magazine’s website  

  • Printing from a newspaper or magazine website

  • Articles accessed, kept or copied via your media monitoring service or pr agency

  • Copying of content supplied by your public relations agency

  • Photocopying of newspaper or magazine articles

  • Placing articles (including headlines and text extracts) on your corporate website/social media channels

There are different licenses depending on where you source the news and where you want to share it, which is where a lot of people get confused because they do seem to make it as complicated as possible… If you want to publish your coverage to your website, you need a Corporate Website Republishing Licence. If you just want to share links from news websites, you need a Web End User Licence. If you want to do a bit of everything, you need a Business Licence. I think.

So, before you share any article - which includes links to websites or even just screen-shotting an article and saving it to your computer - it’s best to:
A) check whether the publication is on the NLA’s lists (linked above) before recirculating.
B) understand which licence you need in order to share it.

If the newspaper, magazine or blog is not a member of the NLA then you’re ok to republish it with their written permission.

The CLA tend to deal more with educational licences and licences for the third sector but do still represent publishers (although not as many as the NLA)…

And that’s where my understanding of all of this gets hazy (and from doing a little digging, no one within the PR industry seems to understand why there are two organisations doing the same thing). If anyone can shed light on that for me, I’d be forever grateful. I did read somewhere that they were merging, but as yet, I don’t think it’s true.

Of course, the simplest way around it is to check your publication and buy a license.

The cost of the licence depends on the size of you business and the number of times you plan on sharing the article, so costs vary from around £200 to up to £10,000 per year. Here are the charges as they stand in February 2019.

NLA costs.jpg

It sounds a lot but it’s cheaper than being slapped with a hefty fine. I’ve heard of some businesses being charged up to £14,000 in arrears. I could break a small business.

And here’s where it gets even more complicated. If you work with a PR Agency and they offer media monitoring, whereby they place articles and monitor when and where they’re published, you’ll both need a licence- them to source and send it and you to receive and share it.

But all is not lost and we do cover media monitoring as a topic in the Rural PR Academy where we’ll also be exclusively sharing our next blog - a list of ways you can promote your PR success without breaking the law. So join our Facebook community for FREE to join in the conversation.