Newsroom, Scoop divvy up their database

The warring former partners in the news and political Web site Newsroom have reached a limited truce - but both sides still emphatically claim ownership of the software on which the original Newsroom site was built.

The warring former partners in the news and political Web site Newsroom have reached a limited truce - but both sides still emphatically claim ownership of the software on which the original Newsroom site was built.

Newsroom went off air several weeks ago when three of the partners in the venture - journalists Alastair Thompson and Ian Llewellyn and developer Andrew McNaughton - removed the server that held Newsroom's database and the news software.

With the help of Glazier Systems, Newsroom founder Peter Fowler developed a new site from scratch in little over a week, but did not have access to archives dating back to Newsroom's launch in February 1997.

Meanwhile, the three former partners used the original software to create a site with a similar look and feel to Newsroom under the name Scoop - but also held off touting the valuable story archive.

Now, Scoop has a new product called Scoop Gold, which consists of a database of work for Newsroom by Thompson and Llewellyn, but includes what an announcement by Scoop described as "a few references … to a company several Scoop staff were formerly involved with."

"We've undertaken not to use the major database that Newsroom compiled, because there's a dispute over it and there doesn't seem to be any immediate likelihood of resolution," says Scoop spokesman Alastair Thompson. "The Newsroom database was a bit patchy in places anyway."

Fowler says the two sides came to an agreement whereby "in exchange for them handing back the database, I would allow them to keep the editorial material written by Ian and Alastair. That's largely opinion and it's of no value.

"The value in providing news services, which they fail to understand, is that you provide factual information your clients can use. If people want somebody's opinion they'll get it from the newspaper."

Although the database now offered by Newsroom may still contain some work by the former partners, Fowler says it will be pared out. According to Thompson, he was never paid for his opinion an analysis pieces for Newsroom, but Llewellyn was a full-time employee.

Scoop is now in a new office in Wellington, is planning a party tomorrow night and seems - an unexplained outage last week notwithstanding - relatively established. But legal action is still a possibility.

"Scoop have failed to respond to an offer made through my lawyer regarding the software and other things," says Fowler. "There's still a dispute over everything that they're doing. The whole concept, the software, everything is the property of Newsroom."

"The difficulty lies in the fact that nothing is in writing - and therefore to prove this will take a long time in court and a lot of money. It's over to them whether they want to do that or not. I've given them the opportunity to avoid that, but I'm completely determined that the property of Newsroom will remain the property of Newsroom."

Thompson insists that the Scoop software is principally the work of McNaughton,.

"Peter never claimed to own it. There are countless minutes of meetings that show Andrew McNaughton only did a maintenance contract and that Newsroom never purchased the software. Andrew McNaughton over the entire life of Newsroom only received about $11,000.

"He was supposed to get 10% of the revenue of the site as his licence fee - that was part of what the original dispute was about - and towards the end he didn't even get paid his maintenance contract."

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