Owner of Irish website The Liberal pays damages and issues apology for using court agency copy without paying

The owner of Irish news website The Liberal has been forced to apologise and pay damages for using court copy and images without permission.

Leo Sherlock has admitted separate incidents of copyright infringement against Independent Newspapers (Ireland) and court agency CCC.Nuacht after agreeing to settle out of court.

In a statement, published alongside formal apologies to the two firms, he said the copyright breaches had been carried out by “young writers” who were “unaware of the mechanics of the news industry”.

He added: “This was not done in a malicious fashion and the terrible emotional hurt which appears to have been caused to a large global media organisation is particularly striking.”

In his apology to CCC.Nuacht, Sherlock said that between June 2015 and November 2016 The Liberal had published four articles which “reproduced or adapted” articles by the agency.

He said: “I acknowledge the important work of court reporters in informing the public about court proceedings and in furthering the administration of justice in public as required by the Constitution.

“I on behalf of TheLiberal.ie apologise to CCC.Nuacht and its court reporters for publishing these stories without obtaining and paying for a licence entitling them to do so and I undertake that neither I nor TheLiberal.ie will publish or adapt any further copyright materials owned by CCC.Nuacht without licence.”

CCC.Nuacht said it took Sherlock to court after he “repeatedly ignored attempts to resolve blatant infringements of our intellectual property”, as reported by Press Gazette earlier this year.

The agency said in a statement: “We believe this victory in the courts is a victory for professional journalists, especially those working on a freelance or agency basis, who put time and work into ensuring their work is accurate and fair…

“We hope this settlement will act as a deterrent to websites and publications who are tempted to take the work of journalists without proper payment. We further hope it will act as an incentive to publishers to pay for good quality journalism.”

Sherlock also claimed that he was looking to launch a court reporting service that would be “significantly cheaper” than existing rivals.

He said the new court service would be “as close to free as possible”, adding: “Information pertaining to decisions taken in Irish courts is something TheLiberal.ie feels should not be owned by anyone.”