Court finds Fin24 not guilty of copyright infringement, bar one article

Johannesburg - The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has struck down allegations by business publication Moneyweb that its rival Fin24 is guilty of copyright infringement.

Acting Judge Daniel Berger on Thursday handed down judgment in the landmark legal battle, which stemmed from complaints lodged by Caxton-owned Moneyweb in September 2013.

Berger said Moneyweb has to pay 70% of Fin24's legal costs.

While Moneyweb alleged that Fin24 had infringed on seven articles, in his judgment, Berger said Fin24 only infringed on one article about Amplats.

Berger said two of the stories did not qualify for protection under copyright, and Moneyweb did not prove that the other four stories were original.

The judgment comes a year after the matter was heard in the South Gauteng High Court in May 2015.

Moneyweb’s case centred on an allegation that Fin24 aggregated up to eight of its articles unlawfully. Moneyweb editor Ryk van Niekerk accused Fin24 of committing "plagiarism on an industrial scale".

Moneyweb’s lawyer Philip Ginsburg SC further argued in court last year that Fin24 must remove the articles in question from its website and pay damages at a later date.

Fin24, though, rejected the claims as false while Media24’s counsel Cedrick Puckrin SC argued that there is no copyright or exclusivity in news items.

And on Thursday, Judge Berger found in favour of Fin24.

The Moneyweb-Fin24 has sparked debate over how journalistic works should be produced in South Africa.

The case has also shone a spotlight on South Africa’s Copyright Act of 1978, which Media24’s legal counsel last year argued was outdated for the era of online news.

Section 12(8)a of the Act excludes certain official texts from copyright protection such as laws, speeches of a political nature, or ''in the news of the day that are mere items of press information''.

News24 editor Adriaan Basson said he is "satisfied by the court's ruling".

"Media24 felt that in the majority of the stories it had not infringed on copyright," he said.

"While this case was pending, we appointed a 20 plus strong news team of journalists to create original content," he added.

Basson said Media24 will study the judgment and move to correct where it has erred (in light of that one story).

Van Niekerk told Fin24 on Thursday that the ruling against the one story "shows that there is copyright in news".

He said Moneyweb still views this as a victory, despite it only being one article. It's not clear if they will appeal, as they need to study the judgment, said Van Niekerk.

Full judgment:

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