In 2008, alderman Van Hooft of Nijmegen was interviewed by a journalist. In this interview the notorious interview between GeenStijl reporter Rutger van Castricum and former Minister Ella Vogelaar was discussed, among other things. The alderman’s opinion on this interview was: “Her relation with the press was difficult. I would’ve just kicked the son of a bitch of GeenStijl in the ass”. The interview with the alderman was subsequently published in the Nijmeegse Stadskrant (Nijmegen City Newspaper).
As a result of this article, GeenStijl published a report on its website. In this report a hyperlink was placed to an online copy (a scan) of the interview with the alderman concerned.
The Nijmeegse Stadskrant and the journalist were of the opinion that this was copyright infringement. GeenStijl could have sufficed by quoting the sentence concerned and should not have copied the entire interview. Next, in proceedings on the merits they claimed a prohibition and damages. GeenStijl defended itself by arguing that it did not commit copyright infringement because it was allowed to copy the interview on the basis of the journalistic exception and the right to quote (both the journalistic exception and the right to quote are copyright restrictions provided for in the Copyright Act). Moreover, in the context of the journalistic exception GeenStijl is free to show the interview in which it was attacked. GeenStijl furthermore argued that the Nijmeegse Stadskrant is not a copyright holder of the interview, because the copyright is vested in the journalist. Therefore, according to GeenStijl, the newspaper cannot maintain the copyright.
On 12 May 2010 the Subdistrict Court of Amsterdam rendered judgment. Firstly, the Court ruled that the Nijmeegse Stadskrant’s claims were indeed not admissible, because the newspaper is not the copyright holder of the interview. With regard to the journalist GeenStijl’s reliance on the journalistic exception was successful, on the basis of which the news body, briefly stated, is free to copy news reports from the news media. The Subdistrict Court ruled that the interview could be regarded as a ‘press report’, and GeenStijl could be regarded as a ‘news body’. With respect to the latter the Subdistrict Court stated:
“The defendant is a news body aimed at digital news provision via its website GeenStijl. The copying of the interview concerned on its website can therefore be qualified as the copying to another medium that fulfils the same function, so that the defendant was free to do so“.
Apart from that, a successful reliance on the journalistic exception needs the mentioning of the source of the press report, and the copyright may not have been explicitly reserved. In this case these conditions were also met. Because the reliance on the journalistic exception was successful, the question of whether a reliance on the right to quote could be successful was not discussed. The important aspect of this case is, amongst other things, that according to the Court, also an interview may be copied as a news report under the journalistic exception.
The claims of the claimants were rejected, while the newspaper and the journalist were ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings. GeenStijl itself has stated that it has thus won a ‘giga important matter of principle’.
This case was handled on behalf of the GeenStijl by Kennedy Van der Laan’s Jens van den Brink.