THURSDAY 18 MAR 2010 9:02 AM


The Newspaper Licensing Agency has announced the launch of an introductory PR licence for smaller agencies, just days after failing to block a legal challenge to its digital license.

On Monday, the Copyright Tribunal rejected the NLA’s application to prevent a challenge from the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) and Meltwater, the online media monitoring firm. Today, the agency has announced an ‘introductory’ license “to satisfy the media monitoring requirements of smaller PR agencies and their clients”.

The licence is specifically designed for smaller PR agencies (up to five staff and up to three clients), who find the standard NLA licence “unsuitable”. Available from April 2010, it will give agencies the right to supply copies of newspaper content to their clients – for a £150 fee per client.

“The charge addresses the needs of agencies for a no-nonsense, straightforward and cost effective solution, which means they and their clients are copyright compliant,” says David Pugh, managing director of the NLA. The licence enables cuttings (paper, digital-print or web content) to be sent to one recipient at a client company and provides indemnity for backdated copying fees.

Critics argue that, as most smaller agencies work for smaller clients, at £150 per client a lot of coverage needs to be created.

Mervyn Edgecombe, managing director of London-based PR agency Mervyn Edgecombe Associates, saw some merit with the new initiative "The old system was so complex and convoluted that anything that simplifies the process has to be welcome" said Edgecombe, adding that he was still unlikely to sign up to the new initiative. "£150 may not sound much, but that's £450 for the three main accounts that would warrant this license, and there's not enough value to justify it. When we get the coverage, we just send the office junior out to buy an extra copy of the paper."

And Francis Ingham, PRCA director general questioned the timing of the announcement: “In March 2007, negotiating on behalf of the CIPR, I agreed a virtually word-for-word small practitioner licence with the NLA. For reasons best known to themselves, the NLA decided not to release that licence. It is a remarkable coincidence that the day after their defeat at the Copyright Tribunal was announced, they have now wheeled this licence back out of cold storage.”