Palate Press accuses MacLean of copyright infringement

17th December, 2012 by Lucy Shaw

US online wine magazine PalatePress.com has accused Canadian wine writer Natalie MacLean of copyright infringement on her website NatalieMacLean.com.

Natalie MacLean

Canadian wine writer Natalie MacLean

MacLean, whose website boast over 145,000 members, publishes a paid for subscription newsletter offering “exclusive wine reviews” for US$2.10 a month.

In addition to her own reviews, she includes reviews by professional wine writers often without attributing them to a publication or providing a link to the review.

Instead, they are all accredited to “Vintages Wine Catalogue,” a Liquor Control Board of Ontario publication that runs fully accredited reviews, including information on the author, date, and publication.

“There is a simple phrase for this practice in which MacLean has engaged – copyright infringement.

“Just because someone is writing about wine rather than politics or foreign affairs does not absolve him or her from adhering to journalistic ethics,” Palate Press wrote in an open letter addressing the issue on its website.

“Intellectual property theft is a scourge on journalism and cannot be tolerated. We cannot sit idly by while a colleague brings discredit upon any of us by flouting ethical standards,” it added.

Responding to the accusations, MacLean replied on the Palate Press website:

“I am in the process of adding the information, including names and publications, beside the quotes that has been requested, beginning with the most recent reviews and going backwards.

“I welcome and listen to feedback from both colleagues and readers and make changes as a result, including all that has been requested in this case.”

Screen grab from NatalieMacLean.com

Screen grab from NatalieMacLean.com

The online magazine contacted a number of the wine writers who have been featured on MacLean’s site, including Jancis Robinson MW, James Halliday, Jamie Goode, and The Wine Advocate’s new editor-in-chief Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, none of whom had given their permission for her to include their content.

On learning reviews from her Purple Pages website had been used on MacLean’s site without her permission, Palate Press reports that Robinson was “horrified.”

“I am horrified, Natalie. Not just by the general lack of proper attribution, but by the appropriation of reviews from Purple Pages, which is a members-only publication.

“Please take steps to remove all reviews appropriated from Purple Pages immediately,” Robinson wrote to MacLean.

“There is a qualitative difference between a retailer’s quoting a review for sales purposes and a fellow wine commentator’s publishing it on their own personal website,” Robinson later told Palate Press.

The magazine is currently investigating allegations that MacLean has asked a number of wineries to subscribe to her website before she will accept their wines for review.

5 Responses to “Palate Press accuses MacLean of copyright infringement”

  1. I am not sure that Natalie Maclean has infringed the copywright of fellow wine writers if their work is registered in the ‘Vintage Catalogue’ of the Ontario Control Board, as claimed. While I agree with Jancis Robinson that there is a qualitative (and one might add ethical) difference between a retailer quoting a review for sales purposes and a fellow wine writer quoting another’s review on his/her website- this is an ethical standards issue separate from copyright infringement . It seems that Palace Press are confusing the two by lumping them together. I remember that ethics and intellectual property were a hornet’s nest for litigants when i was a student at Gray’s Inn in the late ‘sixties. it would be good to hear the informed opinion of a certain wine-writing QC now retired.

  2. A follow up piece by our publisher, David Honig (who is a practicing attorney), and Gary Thomas has been published on Palate Press: http://palatepress.com/2012/12/wine/pay-for-play-wine-writing/

  3. Chris Miller says:

    I think there must be an algorithm in there that will show us the future of wine marketing and branding and taste.
    Snooth + CellarTracker x Lot18 ÷ Wines Till Sold Out x Campogate ÷ Jay Miller – Brunellogate + Robert Parker Jr selling Wine Advocate + Natalie Mclean + Jancis ÷ Palate Press & all this times Gary Vee has gotta equal something important.

    I am sure I’m missing some important elements to the equation so don’t trust the outcome.

  4. Michael – you should check copyright laws in Canada.This is a clear theft of intellectual property prohibited by law in our beautiful country. Chris the equation is simple – take a journalist’s intellectual property without payment, acknowlegement or even permission and you commit a crime – and then if you go on to charge people a fee for accessing this? You could now face a class action suit. Check the Heather Robinson case which was won (hard won after many legal battles but won) against the major print publications in this country when they took journalists’ work and published it without compensation or permission online.

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