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May 6, 2014

A lot of moolah for a mogul melee ... will it pay off for News Corp?

What you do when you don't own the photos to the mogul punch-up of the decade. And what you do when you do. Will News Corp's expensive scoop pay off?


What do you do when you can’t show the photos? You get the cartoonists on it. That was how Fairfax tackled the millionaire mogul punch-up of the decade …

It’s News Corporation rivals, meanwhile, splashed big on the story. It got more coverage in most of the company’s tabloids than the Commission of Audit did last week — a full nine pages in The Daily Telegraph, seven in the Herald Sun, six in The Courier-Mail, four in The Advertiser and two in the NT News. Editors are trying to justify the investment of the company — reportedly between $210,000 and $250,000 for 50 snaps and a short video of the fight.

Commercially, they’re selling more papers because of it, according to the newsagents Crikey rung this morning. “It’s everywhere and all in good fun,” one inner-Sydney newsagent told us. “There’s certainly been plenty of interest.” Commuters into Sydney noticed far more Daily Telegraphs being read than normal.

Far fewer than 50 photographs have been revealed so far, which means we could see more of this story unfolding through the tabloids over the next few days. It’s a story News Corp will own — a leading copyright lawyer told us that while fair use exemptions to images do apply for reporting the news, they’d doubt a media organisation would risk the wrath of News Corp by republishing them.

News Corp could argue that the photos themselves are not necessary to reporting on the fight. “I suspect publication by another outlet wouldn’t fly under fair use,” the lawyer said. “It’d be brave of another publisher to take them on.”

Indeed, other publishers have tread carefully. Fairfax went with drawings. A video of the fight has been replayed by both Sky and the ABC this morning, but the networks made no attempt to remove the News Corp logos emblazoned across it. Online, plenty of social media users posted the photos to their own networks, but intriguingly, most publishers have embedded these tweets rather than republishing the photos themselves in their online news reports.

It might be harder to protect copyright than ever, but on this type of story, Australia’s media is playing it safe. News Corp may yet get its money’s worth out of its expensive scoop.


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