On January 17, 2013, the Media Ethics Observatory (MEO) and the Information Disputes Council (IDC) released the joint expert conclusion on the complaint of Arpi Voskanian versus www.1in.am news portal. On December 10, 2012, Arpi Voskanian addressed a complaint to the MEO, in which she invoked that on December 6, 2012, 1in.am reprinted her poem “Political Riddle”, “without any prior notice, without her consent or any agreement on the size or form of payment”. The poem was initially published in “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily on the same day (see http://www.armtimes.com/38523). Moreover, 1in.am reprinted the poem under its own headline, removing the original title and attaching the photo of one of the Armenian politicians. Besides, the news portal had announced a song competition on the poem’s lyrics, fixing an award of $ 1,500 (see http://www.1in.am/arm/armenia_society_139273.html), the complainant stressed. Thus, Arpi Voskanian alleged that her copyrights were violated. According to the complainant, she had requested the Chief Editor of the news portal Arman Babajanian to remove the poem from the website, cancel the song competition and compensate her losses. However, her request was denied, moreover, “the Editor did not even deign to reply her in person”.
Since the complaint touched upon both professional ethics and legal matters, the MEO examined it jointly with the Information Disputes Council at the December 27, 2012 session.
It should be noted that the Media Ethics Observatory considers complaints and appeals regarding the violations of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives, adopted on March 10, 2007 by the heads of Armenian media, who supported the YPC initiative on establishing a self-regulatory system in Armenia (see details at http://www.ypc.am/self_regul/ln/eng).
The joint expert conclusion stresses that Point 2.4 of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives requires “to respect copyright, to preclude plagiarism, and to mention the sources whenever quoting or making reprints”. However, this is a minimum requirement for the journalistic materials, since the protection of copyright presumes other obligations, as well. Particularly, a creative work falls under the protection of the RA Law “On Copyright and Related Rights”. For the lawful usage of the creative work, not only a reference to the source, but also the author’s consent is required. From this perspective, the MEO believes that the reprinting of Arpi Voskanian’s poem by 1in.am, even though made with a reference to the source, but without securing the author’s consent, violates the norms of journalistic ethics.
As regards the legal aspect of the case, the joint expert conclusion stresses that the matter of the dispute is a creative work. Therefore, the author of the work is entitled to some material and non-material rights under the same Law “On Copyright and Related Rights”. Particularly, the author has the right of protecting his/her work from distortions and modifications by third party, and may prohibit the third party to reprint or disseminate the work in any other forms. Proceeding from the above, 1in.am has obviously violated the material and non-material rights of the author. Besides, the announcing of a song competition and monetary award may be considered in some cases as interference to the material interests of the author (Article 23 of the Law “On Copyright and Related Rights”), with all the deriving legal effects.
The MEO and IDC called upon the parties of the conflict, Arpi Voskanian and 1in.am, to settle the dispute out-off court. At the same time, they recommended 1in.am to show willingness to listen to Arpi Voskanian and satisfy her demands, as far as possible.
The full MEO and IDC expert conclusion is available in Armenian at http://www.ypc.am/self_regul/ln/en.
It should be noted that on January 21 the MEO organized the meeting of Arpi Voskanian with the 1in.am representative.