You’ve just been featured in a magazine and you want to tell the world. Of course you do but hold on one minute – did you know that you could risk a big fine if you publish your hard-earned press coverage?
- 1 The back story
- 2 What is the role of the NLA?
- 3 Examples of content that would get you a fine:
- 4 How to shout about your press coverage (without risking a big fine!)
- 5 NLA Q&A:
- 6 Got questions?
The back story
What we all love about the web is our ability to share content, link to interesting articles and curate. However in the UK, big publishing companies have other ideas and have formed a company to chase down anyone who shares their content, the company is called the Newspaper Licencing Agency (NLA).
The frustrating thing is that a lot of this content could have only been created by the employees of NLA-governed publications, with the help of external parties (your company for example) and yet when you talk about the coverage that you may have helped the journalist compile, you’ll get hit with a fine. You might think it’s unfair and many people who have been hit by an NLA fine would agree with you.
Confusing copyright and publishing laws, devised by specialist lawyers are imposed by the media conglomerates on unassuming businesses. Overseen by the Newspaper Licensing Association (NLA), if you publish content that contravenes their rules, you’ll get slapped with a fine.
If you publish content online, or create content for your clients, and have not already heard of the NLA and the regulations they govern, read on. You need to know about this as you could be infringing copyright and you or your clients could be hit with a business-crippling fine.
What is the role of the NLA?
The Newspaper Licensing Association is a governing body established by the eight major newspaper groups in the UK (Associated Newspapers, Financial Times, Guardian Media Group, Independent News and Media, Northern and Shell, New International, Daily Telegraph and Trinity Mirror).
However, in total the NLA represents more than 1400 magazine, newspapers and online publications in the UK, Europe and North America. The principal role of the NLA to distribute licenses that permit companies to publish content that was curated by members of the NLA. Revenue generated by subscription fees are ‘used to support journalism’ but we can’t be sure what that entails exactly. It is estimated the governing body recovers in excess of £36m a year in royalty payments.
Another function performed by the NLA is to oversee copyright laws. A substantial portion of the annual royalties collection comes from penalties to businesses they breached copyright regulations. This essentially means companies that share or publish content on digital and offline channels used for commercial purposes need permission from NLA-protected publications.
Unless you have paid for a distribution licence or have received permission from the press office of the publication you intend to promote, you are in breach of protected copyright laws awarded to NLA members.
However, securing a licence is not that easy and the fees are expensive. Payments are calculated in accordance with the size of your company and the amount of coverage you anticipate to use.
To give you an idea of costs, companies with less than 500 employees and a turnover of less than £10m a year would have to pay £162 an article, £566 for up to five articles, £863 for up to 10 articles and so on. You get the picture.
In addition, you may also be charged an “indemnity fee to cover previous unlicensed copying.”
Here’s an example of an NLA bill sent to one of our clients:
Needless to say, the client only realised they were breaking the rules when the NLA first got in touch with them. When we took this client on, our first priority was to resolve this issue as the fine was huge and could have paralysed the business for right before their peak season.
Do I need an NLA licence?
Members of the NLA are entitled to receive royalty fees. Payments to content creators are generated by commercial enterprises that apply for a distribution licence giving you permission to share or reproduce content published by journalists in NLA-protected publications.
Third-party businesses that do not have an NLA licence are deemed to have infringed copyright laws and will be awarded a penalty. In this respect, the copyright laws governed by the NLA are no different to general copyright laws.
For example, you wouldn’t copy-paste an article or download images from a mainstream newspaper. But what about sharing content on social media, or referencing journalists in blog posts.
There is some confusion as to where and how businesses can or cannot use NLA-protected content. At one point there was even a question as to whether employees could read NLA-protected publications at work because the URL was “copied” on a web browser registered to a commercial entity.
NLA rules state content published on national and local newspaper websites is free to share for private individuals, but if links are shared for commercial purposes, or links are being sent “in some other systematic way” you need a distribution licence or permission from the publication.
Therefore, be careful how you share content on social media, emails, blog content and other marketing channels.
What are content curators permitted to do without an NLA licence?
Whilst most copyright laws are straightforward, a legal case involving the NLA and the media monitoring website, Meltwater News, left questions unanswered by the Copyright Tribunal and have not been reported in the mainstream publications that own the governing body.
Given that many of our clients publish online content, we decided to write to the NLA to determine exactly what content creators can and cannot do.
Examples of content that would get you a fine:
Example 1: Furniture retailer made.com show quotes from publications on their homepage. If you used a quote from an NLA-covered title and didn’t have an NLA licence, you would be risking a fine:
Example 2: This retailer has published a picture of the coverage they received in the Evening Standard and then also reproduced the text from the image, on the page (presumably for SEO benefit). Even though the whole article was pretty-much written by an employee of the company featured and the image was supplied (presumably for free to the Evening Standard), that same company would be liable for a fine from the NLA if unlicensed.
How to shout about your press coverage
(without risking a big fine!)
Let’s say you were given coverage in The Guardian. You can mention in a blog post that you have been featured in The Guardian but you can’t use a quote from the article, or publish the headline. What you could do is write something along the lines of: “We were recently featured in an article in The Guardian on the best holiday destinations for families. They talked about some of the best spots for families on a budget, families travelling with more than two kids and families with older kids. We are super happy to have been mentioned by The Guardian in their section on the best destinations for families with older kids. Here is a link to the article.”
2. Social love
If you’re mentioned by a publication, then spread the word quickly by Tweeting it to your audience (or posting on your other social channels, like Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin). Remember to copy in the social handle of the publication you’re featured in, as their followers may see it and the publication may also repost the mention. Remember to not use images of the coverage or use the full headline – just link to the coverage.
3. Just use logos
A publications logos are also copyrighted but the NLA won’t come after you if you use them. That falls to the legal department of the publication or publishing company and it’s rare they’ll chase you but not unheard of. If you’ve been featured in different publications, you can use an ‘As featured in’ area to present those logos to your audience with the aim of adding to your credibility.
Here are a couple of examples from some of our clients:
4. Use logos on product pages
If a specific product has had coverage in a title, then you can use that title’s logo on the product page itself. In this example, it’s debatable as to whether you should use the ‘LOVES’ element but you could use ‘Featured in’ instead and it’ll lose none of the magic.
5. Get awarded
OK, so to win an award (or even get shortlisted), you have to enter them first. We all know it’s time-consuming but – having worked on editorial and reader awards in a former life – I can vouch for how hard it can be to put awards together. Getting companies to enter is actually harder than you might think. By just submitting your products or services and getting shortlisted, you can shout about that. If you win or come ‘highly recommended’, you can shout about it even louder. There will be a publication in your field, that speaks to your audience, that runs their own awards. You might evening find an awards-only company, that doesn’t have a publication so to speak but they still have a huge influence. You literally have to be in it to win it, so get on it.
6. Work with publications not covered by the NLA
There are hundreds of publications that aren’t owned by big publishing companies and aren’t a part of the NLA scheme. Check out this NLA list and if the publication you’re featured in aren’t on that list, then the chances are you can run lots of coverage and not be too worried about getting fined. It’s likely that those publications will be smaller but they still have influence and it’s also likely if you’re featured in that publication you’ll know some of the team there and they’ll appreciate you shouting about their coverage.
7. Get a licence
The last but by no means least good option is to get an NLA licence. If you are a small company but you’ve been featured in a MASSIVE publication and you want the world to know, then just grab a single-use licence. At £162 for one article, that can represent huge value for money. With an NLA licence, you can push this coverage out to all of your social channels, grab images of the article itself and reproduce it on your blog, shout about it to your newsletter subscribers and feature excerpts on your website.
Q: Can we use quotes offered by the writer or the people they are interviewing?
A: You would need to seek permission from the publication or apply for a licence to use any quotes, headlines, text extracts.
Therefore, do not lift quotes to use in your content from any NLA-protected publications. You can find a complete list of NLA magazines, newspapers and websites on this link. Just download the ‘full list’.
Q: Are we permitted to embed a link to a media publication directing readers to further information or backing up claims we make in content?
A: You can use a link by itself providing you have checked the publications terms and conditions.
The choice here is to read through the terms and conditions of every publication you want to reference on the NLA list to see if they give you permission, or just not bother sending them inbound links. This also applies to sharing content on social media platforms.
Q: Are we permitted to write, (for example), “According to an article in The Guardian newspaper….”
A: Yes that is fine as you are not infringing the typographical or literary copyright.
What you cannot do is quote the newspaper directly or use the headline and subheadings in your content.
The NLA: Dracionian rules in a digital age?
The crux here is if your company is featured in any of these newspapers, such as a guest post in Engadget or Huffington Post. You are not permitted to share the content or host it on your website or social media networks. The content belongs to the publication/broadcaster, not you or your client.
Should you want to advertise the piece, best practices are to request permission directly from the publication either through their legal team or commercial department but it’s unlikely you’ll get a reply. Copyright permissions do not fall under the remit of editorial terms. You will not be allowed to embed videos you feature in on your website either without permission from the broadcaster.
On one hand, it is easy to see the need for the NLA and why copyright laws should be in place. The disappointing thing is that the media groups that own the NLA do not inform businesses of our right. Often, businesses only learn about their limited rights when they have already breached the regulations and are hit with a fine.
If you want to mention press coverage but you’re worried about getting it wrong and risking a fine, don’t worry – you’re not alone! Just drop us a line – we’d be happy to advise you.