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Copyright revenues: 5 minutes with… Matt Aspinall

It’s really annoying, isn’t it, when someone uses your content for their benefit, and you get absolutely nothing in return. We grab five minutes with Matt Aspinall, Head of Publisher Services at NLA media access, to find out what publishers should be doing about it.

By Matt Aspinall

Copyright revenues: 5 minutes with… Matt Aspinall

Q: In what new and emerging ways is publisher content being misused?

A: The main way copyright abusers misuse and then attempt to monetise publisher content is by lifting copy and driving traffic to their own site to draw advertising revenue. The cost to the publisher can be high.

Unsurprisingly, publishers are keen to maximise SEO value and web traffic as much as possible. We are seeing increased cases of infringers who take something unique from a publisher site – not just text – place it on their own site and attempt to steal that traffic. As an example, in the last month, NLA were able to remove a lifted news article containing a bespoke ‘equity calculator’ from two rogue websites who not only stole the publishers IP, but also used the publisher’s logo to suggest endorsement.

We are also seeing an increase in fraudulent websites posing as publishers by creating cloned news sites. These cloned sites can be easily shared via social media to boost readership, often in a deliberate attempt to spread fake news.

Q: What is the scale of the copyright theft problem?

A: In 2020 to date, we have removed over 20,000 articles from over 700 sources across just a handful of publishers via our ‘Text Tracker’ tool. This ranges from infringers who take the odd article in a niche market to sophisticated content farms who go to great lengths to steal content daily. 90% of content taken is non-paywall, but publishers who host subscription models should be under no illusions that their content is safe.

In 2019, we removed an entire website dedicated to scraping and hosting purely paywalled news. Our tool uses direct feeds from publishers as a comparison to what is being hosted on the wider internet and so we are not restricted on what we can find.

A lot of publishers may not know this goes on.

Q: Typically, how can publishers grow their licensing revenues?

A: Firstly, I recommend any publisher signs up with the NLA if not done so already. Your content may already be copied (for media monitoring and reputational management purposes) and you will not be seeing a return.

Once signed, I recommend publishers focus on two key areas:

  1. Ensure someone in your business manages the licensing relationship effectively. This could include maintaining the mandate to ensure all editorial products are being licensed but also educating your wider business about the rights you have granted, and in particular making sure direct permission to re-use content is not being freely given away by staff.
  2. Make your content accessible. Royalty growth is typically only as strong as content is easily available for media monitoring businesses and their clients. NLA have databases in place (eClips and eClips Web) used by much of the media monitoring market to aid this.

Q: What do you see as the main licensing opportunities in the next few years?

A: We will continue to license the content we are mandated to do so by publishers and will in part be driven by the demands of the media monitoring sector. Publishers naturally create a vast array of IP – not just text – and we keep an eye on how businesses evolve in the way they use copyrighted content where content creators deserve fair reward.

We do always look at ways to enhance our licence offering with the rights publishers have already granted us. In 2021, NLA will launch a new licensing option which allows our clients to access articles related to their business for longer. This will in turn drive royalty growth for publishers.

We will also be evolving one of our most popular licences which allows end users to place favourable press coverage on their corporate websites / social media channels – again with the intention of growing the royalty line to publishers who deserve fair reward from businesses who benefit from this.

Q: What is in the pipeline at NLA?

A: You will not just see changes to our licences. You will see a mixture of enhancing existing and developing new services for publishers – in particular, services that are best managed collectively on behalf of the industry.

We will formally re-launch our copyright infringement service, Text Tracker, in early 2021 and try to help as many publishers in this area as we can. It has become a must-have tool for publishers who have been with the service since 2015.

We will continue to run and develop commercial agreements on behalf of publishers in the Text Aggregator space. We are already generating new revenues for publishers in this area and there are opportunities ahead to expose publishers’ content to new markets whilst at the same time protecting how that content is used.

Our journalist research portal, ClipShare, will continue to be integrated into more newspaper and magazine publishers. Used by ~7,000 journalists currently across the UK, it is a vital tool for tracking copy and researching the next story.

That’s a taste of things to come…

"It’s only fair that you receive the royalty payments that are rightfully yours."

About us

NLA media access exists to support journalism.

Writing, editing, publishing, printing and web hosting all have a cost and when a business copies your content, they need to pay for the privilege. Quality journalism has a value, and one of the ways to make the most of that value is through copyright licensing. UK publishers like you invest a total of over £1bn every year. It’s only fair that you receive the royalty payments that are rightfully yours.


Tel: 020 7332 9350