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Publishers tackle Rugby World Cup over copyright

A fortnight from the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, Australia's two major publishers and main news agency are in a stand-off with the International Rugby Board.

All three are threatening to keep their journalists away from the tournament.

The rugby board requires reporters and photographers to be accredited to attend matches and press conferences, but the publishers see its terms as so strict they may be better off covering it remotely. Fairfax Media in Australia, publisher of The Canberra Times and The Sydney Morning Herald, and News Ltd refuse to sign terms preventing them showing more than 90 seconds of footage on their websites or running advertisements before clips, despite Australian law allowing both under fair dealing exceptions to copyright protections for news reporting.

Newspaper Publishers Association chief executive Mark Hollands said they understood the rugby board needed to earn revenue. ''But we do not accept the IRB is entitled to seek to dictate what material may legitimately be used to report news,'' he said.

The rugby board's Rugby World Cup subsidiary said the dispute was about Australian newspapers intending to commercialise copyright material.