Newspaper Licensing Ireland– some thoughts

This post is about the website of Newspaper Licensing Ireland, who have recently written to a non-profit organisation whose aims I wholeheartedly support, seeking license fees for linking to newspaper content published on the internet by the newspaper publishers. McGarr Solicitors, who are acting for Women’s Aid, have published a detailed analysis of the situation and the questions raised on their website, which I link to in the confidence that the McGarrs won’t come looking for a pound of flesh in return.Sticky buns perhaps, but nothing worse.

I will ignore the fact that this action seems to be in ignorance of the way the Internet works, particularly with regard to search engine optimisation and page ranking where relevance and significance of content, and hence it’s positioning in Google searches and the value of the real-estate for on-line advertising purposes. I’ll ignore how the use of links simply tells people to “look over here – I found this interesting, so you might to”. I’ll ignore the fact that links are effectively the footnotes on the Interweb that tell people where your source was for a thing. 

(But if you do want to actually understand this aspect, the Wikipedia entry on Search Engine Optimisation has a reference to the Google PageRank algorithm and how it works (at a high level). And Dr. Cathal Gurrin in Dublin City University did his Doctoral thesis on the topic.And I’m sure someone somewhere has done an economic analysis of link density [the number of inbound links to a site] but I can’t be bothered to look for it tonight.)

What I will talk about here is the fact that, when I went to the NewsPaper Licensing Ireland site (which I won’t link to… just in case) to see what the potential cost to an SME with 0-10 employees would be. I still don’t know the answer.

I’d expected a form that would take certain inputs and churn them around to spit out a ball park figure. I’d expected to see something that would relate the license cost to, for example, the average hits or distinct site visits on the SME company site per month (to make the cost meaningful as those stats are the foot fall of the Web).

What I didn’t expect was to be asked for a contact name and the name of the company on that form. Company name I’m not to concerned about. But the contact name…

…that’s personal data. Therefore under s2 of the Data Protection Acts it must be obtained for specified and lawful purpose and must be fairly obtained. So I went looking for a Privacy Statement (there was none). So I turned on my cookie checkers to see what was being written by the site to my device wot is connected to a public communications network (and therefore would be a cookie within the meaning of SI336 and as such would require consent unless necessary for the service I’m trying to avail of).

My tools revealed that NLI are using Google Analytics on their site. In a manner which is in breach of the Terms and Conditions of use for Google Analytics which state very clearly in Section 8:


8.1 You will not associate (or permit any third party to associate) any data gathered from Your Website(s) (or such third parties’ website(s)) with any personally identifying information from any source as part of Your use (or such third parties’ use) of the Service. You will comply with all applicable data protection and privacy laws relating to Your use of the Service and the collection of information from visitors to Your websites. You will have in place in a prominent position on your Website (and will comply with) an appropriate privacy policy. You will also use reasonable endeavours to bring to the attention of website users a statement which in all material respects is as follows:

“This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. (“Google”).  Google Analytics uses “cookies”, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States . Google will use this information for the purpose of evaluating your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity for website operators and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage.  Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google’s behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.  You may refuse the use of cookies by selecting the appropriate settings on your browser, however please note that if you do this you may not be able to use the full functionality of this website.  By using this website, you consent to the processing of data about you by Google in the manner and for the purposes set out above.”

The emphasis in bold is mine. What Google requires is for people using GA to put in place a Privacy Statement but that that Privacy statement needs to clearly detail the use of Google Analytics, the fact of data transfer to the US, the purposes to which the data will be used etc.

NLI have no such Privacy statement, and no such text, so no mechanism to confirm my consent to the cookies that are being written by Google Analytics.

So, the site is operating in breach of SI336 and Google’s terms and conditions, and is effectively breaching contractual conditions governing the use of Google’s services and the fundamental right to Personal Data Privacy as enshrined in Article 16 of the Lisbon Treaty.

All of which I’d never have considered looking at at all if they weren’t sending threatening letters to a charity that exists to help and protect women experiencing domestic violence.