News Corp and the publishers of the Daily Mail Australia have settled their copyright dispute out-of-court in a confidential settlement.

Speaking to Crikey this morning, spokespeople for both companies confirmed the settlement while declining to comment on its specifics.

Crikey understands no money changed hands as a result of the settlement.

The settlement comes after a public war of words over claims of pinching stories on both sides. In an article that marked the start of public hostilities, The Australian’s media section carried news of a cease-and-desist letter sent to the Daily Mail Australia publishers, as well as examples of what it claimed were story ideas, quotes and content lifted from News Corp’s publications. The Mail responded by releasing several instances of what it said were News Corp’s tabloids lifting its content.

Speaking to the Financial Times yesterday, Martin Clarke, the publisher of the Mail Online, said the matter had been resolved “very much to my satisfaction”. But News, which has always said all it wanted was for the Mail Online to stop lifting its articles, says it has also achieved its goal. “We do note there has been a change in the practices of the Mail Online since we made our complaint.  We are keeping a vigilant eye for any future breaches of copyright,” a spokesman said.

A spokesman for the Mail Online confirmed the settlement had taken place, but declined to comment on its specifics, saying he was bound by the terms of the confidentiality agreement.

As Crikey wrote in June however, some legal experts were sceptical of  whether copyright could apply to things like quotes in news articles. The out-of-court conclusion to this saga offers little guidance on the matter.

The Daily Mail is the first tabloid competitor to News Corp’s Australian titles in some times, and tensions between the two have been significant. The Mail has poached several of News Corp’s best online editors and reporters, and has been steadily moving up the online rankings in recent months. In the Nielson online rankings released two weeks ago, it was the fifth most-popular online news site in Australia with an audience of 2.4 million. News Corp’s was the second-most visited news website with 3.7 million views.

The animosity between the two companies perhaps reached its climax when Australian media reporter Darren Davidson’s was barred by Mail Online spinner Sean Walsh from the publisher’s yacht at the Cannes Lions festival in France. After he tried to film his encounter with Clarke on his iPad, Davidson claimed his iPad was taken from him. He also claimed he had beer poured over him.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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