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Who Has Copyright To The Election Results?

The strange tale of the election night graphic. Scoop replies and says it is not, "vicious", as has been alleged today elsewhere in the media.

This morning in an article on @IDG several lurid accusations were made concerning Scoop's election night coverage.

See… News sites at war over stolen election graph
Scoop's behaviour "vicious" says Newsroom editor

Scoop refutes a fair deal of what is stated in the article and certainly the inference that we breached copyright. Scoop regards statements made by Peter Fowler of NewsRoom in relation to the matter - some of which are contained in the article - as defamatory, and will be asking for an apology.

In response to certain paragraphs in the article Scoop replies…

1 - Scoop also appears to be still using copyright material from the Chief Electoral Office's official election results Web site without attribution. The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Phil Whelan was not available for comment yesterday.

Claiming copyright to the election results - especially when produced electronically - is a nonsense. Government Print (no longer owned by the government of course) is prone to argue arcanely about the copyright of Statute and Hansard too. Scoop reckons the boffins can argue this out in their textbooks. Secondly we have not been requested not to publish the results in the format we have.

2 - Among the unusual events since has been Fowler convincing the Council of Trade Unions and some other union groups to provide their press releases only to NewsRoom, and not Scoop.

Yes that is unusual. And four months later Scoop still hasn't been told why!

3 - At a briefing attended by @IDG several months ago - at which neither NewsRoom or Scoop were present - Whelan, told media organisations they would be able to either use the public Web site or get raw data, including maps and tables, from the system. Any development on top of the data service would be a private arrangement with Catalyst or a third-party developer.

Scoop was not invited to the briefing (and nor for that matter were the Sunday Newspapers!) and was never told any of this. During subsequent discussions with the Electoral Office and Catalyst this was never explained. We never received a single email from any of the development teams concerning the project. In light of the way things have since panned out, the wisdom of having such an arrangement is brought into question. The setup amounts to a suck a money out of the media for extra work system - government sanctioned and approved.

At one point Scoop was told that the feed of information cost a fortune to set up and required a major software investment. Clearly it didn't - it was all readable on the web. And the graph produced by Catalyst was a simple representation of the information in the public table. From Scoop's perspective the whole project contained elements of a deliberate attempt to mystify, complicate and make more expensive what should have been a simple matter.

4 - Although it was Scoop which cancelled a meeting with Catalyst on the Thursday before the election, because "we were very busy", Thompson is accusing Catalyst of being trying to "knobble us", noting that NewsRoom used Catalyst to develop the worm graph it has used for various issues in recent months.

Possibly an importune choice of words but essentially that is our position. Particularly when no mention was made by Catalyst of it being willing to give us a hand. Rather we got the distinct feeling that they were not interested. Surprise. Surprise.

5 - But Christie says "it wasn't a matter of us looking after NewsRoom, it just that NewsRoom did things the right way. NewsRoom came to the CEO about four months ago and said they'd like a feed, which was the procedure. And the CEO said well, if you want a special feed you'll have to pay Catalyst or someone else to do it.

Funny then that they didn't say that to us.

6 - "The point is that Peter asked for this one, specific thing that didn't appear anywhere else in the world and wasn't part of the Justice system or anything, and they just took it without crediting him."

Peter asked for exactly the same thing that Scoop asked for, it was the same thing everybody wanted. It was what as on all the TV screens. Why was it not produced for public dissemination?

7 - "There were some radio stations, as well as Scoop, who got in touch about a week before the election and they were told, look we're setting up and testing and you're too late to get a direct feed, but you can either use the public Internet or come into Avalon with your computers and connect into the Avalon network and get the Web pages served to you directly. Radio New Zealand did that, Newstalk ZB did that."

Scoop, with respect, is not "some radio station" - we are the leading political news site in New Zealand - and in fact we did not get in touch a week before, we got in touch around 8 weeks before. And again, with respect, Catalyst is the company being paid by us, the taxpayers, to deliver the election results. They should be seeking out their audience. Why weren't we invited to the briefing? They seem to have a relationship with our competitor, but they have no knowledge of us?

8 - Fowler acknowledges that bad blood between himself and his former partners is hardly new, but says the events of the weekend "just made me angry because it took a lot of organising - the irony is that they could have gone to the Electoral Commission and requested something but they didn't."

We did contact the Electoral Commission and they contacted Catalyst. Catalyst however chose - for whatever reason - to keep us in the dark. Even if there is no actual conflict of interest involved on Catalyst's part - there is an unfortunate appearance of a conflict of interest.

9 - NewsRoom displayed a sample image of the graph for several days before the poll, promoting it as an exclusive feature.

We first noticed the graph on Saturday afternoon. We also noticed - with some incredulity - that the NewsRoom graph - which was apparently not a special favour from Catalyst - went live several minutes before the public internet site.

10 - When his graph turned up on Scoop, Fowler emailed Thompson and his partner Jonathan Hill with the message: "You are breaching NewsRoom's intellectual property rights. Take the graph down. You have been warned" but both replied that the graph was not his as it was not coming from his site.

Jonathan Hill wasn't involved at all and was not working that night. The message was accidentally sent under his login.

11 - Since Saturday, Scoop has been running electorate results tables under the heading 'Scoop Election Results' and over a Scoop copyright message. Source code for the pages indicates the tables are being served into a frame on Scoop's page direct from the public election results site at @IDG understands the CEO requested that Internet news services did not use its content in this way.

The CEO has not said anything to us about our use of the election results in this way. And in any event for the reasons stated earlier we think that claiming copyright to the election results is a legal nonsense.

© Scoop Media

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