Alleged misuse of exclusive footage of disgraced footballer Adam Johnson and story about former reality TV star Ferne McCann at heart of case.
The Sun has accused MailOnline of stealing exclusive content and threatened legal proceedings in a sign of the escalating battle for digital news revenues.
Lawyers at the Sun, still the biggest selling popular newspaper in the UK but with far fewer readers than the MailOnline, sent the letter claiming copyright infringement earlier this week.
The row over the Mail’s alleged misuse of exclusive footage of Adam Johnson, the disgraced footballer in prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old fan, and another story about former reality TV star Ferne McCann, comes after Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper group in Australia launched similar legal proceedings two years ago.
At the heart of the dispute is the attempt to preserve exclusive content as much as possible in order to attract readers. Rival news organisations typically pay a syndication fee along with a link when they use exclusive content.
Since dropping its paywall at the end of 2015, the Sun website has doubled its audience year-on-year to 4.5m average daily unique browsers, according to the latest circulation figures. MailOnline, which has never charged for its content online, attracts three times as many users with 15.5m in March, higher than the second placed Guardian at almost 9m.
With digital advertising revenues falling across the board for newspapers last year, the battle for readers has intensified and the News Corp newspapers are furious at what they have privately called “widespread pilfering”.