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Published 05 February 2013 07:21, Updated 06 February 2013 10:43
The co-founder of regional NSW-based news website Central Coast Business Insider says he has no intention of changing the name of his mastheads in response to demands from New York digital media company Business Insider.
But Mark Cleary, who co-founded the Central Coast Business Insider and Hunter Business Insider in March 2011, admits he was “terrified” when lawyers representing the American media company launched legal proceedings against him for allegedly “passing off” his company as theirs.
The US Business Insider was launched in February 2009 by the outspoken Henry Blodget and now claims 23 million unique visitors per month.
“It would be incredibly difficult to confuse the Central Coast Business Insider with the New York Business Insider,” Cleary says.
“Victor Harbor in South Australia has The Times, it’s the Victor Harbor Times. We’re just curious whether the London Times or New York Times view them as passing off.”
The case – launched in the Brisbane registry of the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia – goes to the heart of the tensions arising from the increasingly global reach of media companies.
Blodget’s Business Insider has granted Australian media company Allure Media, which is a subsidiary of Fairfax Media, the rights to publish a local version of Business Insider. Cleary says the Americans appeared to have been riled when his company attempted to patent a symbol and the words “business insider”.
He says he has offered some compromises such as making changes to his websites to clarify the geographical nature of the businesses, emphasising Central Coast and Hunter. But he says he has no intention to remove “business insider” from the name, saying its inception was unrelated to the New York company.
“It started three or four years ago; we thought there was a real opportunity to give people an insight into who is doing good stuff on the Central Coast and in the Hunter,” Cleary says.
“We were aware of the ABC show Inside Business. We were after some intimacy, if you like, so we thought that [Business Insider] fitted pretty well. We did the Australian searches and nothing came up.”
He has hired lawyers at Franke Hyland to defend the case, but has serious concerns about the financial impact on his business.
“Terrified is the word that comes to mind,” Cleary says. “We’ve been breaking even on some variable costs, which are our reporters costs and things like that, but there's no profit in the model as yet.”
Julie Hansen, president and chief operating officer of Business Insider, said when asked for comment: “As a matter of policy, we don't comment on legal matters.”