Legal

Media monitoring firm Isentia takes Meltwater to court over contract breach claims

Emma Koehn /

Media intelligence company Isentia says it’s “a shame” it has had to launch Federal Court proceedings against Software-as-a-Service business Meltwater over claims Meltwater has repeatedly breached print monitoring contracts.

The ASX-listed business, which provides a range of media-monitoring tools to third party clients, is taking legal action against Meltwater, its managing director and his wife, with claims that despite having previously asked Meltwater to cease misusing Isentia subscriptions and passing information on to its clients, the company has continued to breach Isentia’s copyright.

In a statement, Isentia says it alleges Meltwater subscribed to its print monitoring services through its managing director, wife and others, and then provided the information from those subscriptions to Meltwater clients, which is a breach of contract.

Isentia spokesperson and chief marketing officer Richard Spencer tells SmartCompany the company is taking legal action to “protect our services”, and since the concerns over the use of Isentia data was uncovered in the middle of 2016, the business has tried to resolve the issue with Meltwater directly.

It’s a shame it’s come to this and it has to be an action through the courts,” Spencer says. 

“We went directly to Meltwater to ask them to cease, and they gave us a written undertaking that they would stop this.” 

Isentia is seeking an interlocutory injunction against Meltwater, as well as damages for previous actions. Spencer says the issue also has an impact on the media organisations with whom Isentia has licence deals, and Isentia has said in a statement it also alleges Meltwater has “defrauded” publishers like News Corp Ltd and Fairfax Media, reports B&T.

“We have a very close relationship with the content publishers and effectively collect copyright on their behalf. We made them aware of the claims we were making against Meltwater as we were doing so,” Spencer says.

Isentia has also raised the possibility Meltwater has fallen foul of Australian Consumer Law, by misrepresenting to its clients what services it is able to provide and suggesting they were able to pass along print information from Isentia.

The matter will be heard in court again next Tuesday, June 20.

In a statement provided to SmartCompany, Meltwater says it intends to “strenuously defend” the matter.

“Meltwater does not condone or promote activities such as claimed by Isentia. We greatly value our relationship with, and responsibility to, the publishers and our customers,” the company said.

Copyright needs to be protected “quite aggressively”

Tony Mylne, commercial litigation partner at TressCox Lawyers, tells SmartCompany says cases like this involve the complex interests of a number of parties, and show companies have little choice but to pursue their copyrights interests fiercely.

As a consequence of signing up to a news or information service, a business like Meltwater “would have as a consequence affirmed some terms and conditions”, Mylne believes. 

“One of these would have been they couldn’t be a re-user of that information.”

Mylne suggests “there’s a tiered effect here”, because Isentia is pursuing not only its own interests but trying to protect the interests of agreements they have with various other news outlets.

Small businesses who read about cases like this need to keep in mind that “just because something’s on the internet doesn’t mean it isn’t copyrighted”, and take care when disseminating information from third parties.

However, Mylne says this case appears to be more complicated than simply ripping out a newspaper article and passing it around — and it shows companies like Isentia understand the importance of asserting their copyright to prevent others from taking advantage.

“Copyright is the lifeblood of the business, and they would have to pursue it quite aggressive. The core of their business is so easily usurped [by infringements],” he says.

However, given the business is seeking an injunction, Mylne observes that in some cases, securing this can be a good solution for businesses to solve the problem without pursuing further action.

If you get your injunction, you may not be that anxious to go to a full hearing and spend an awful amount on legal costs,” he says. 

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* This article was updated at 2:30pm on June 16 to include comment from Meltwater. 

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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