The case first came to court more than two years ago when a total of 55 newspaper editors challenged a company called Documentación de Medios, for using content as part of their press-clipping service.
The ruling means that, in future, any companies seeking to use newspaper material in a similar way will first need to get permission from the editor in question. More precisely, in the case of Documentación de Medios, the company was found to have been in breach of intellectual property rights and guilty of having used content, despite the opposition clearly expressed by the various newspapers.
The sentence also stated that existing agreements between press-clipping agencies and news associations were not in themselves sufficient to grant agencies the right to carry out news summaries or media cuttings without prior consent from the editor.
The editors association of Spanish newspapers, AEDE, said "legal boundaries within the sector have now been clarified and editors - not journalist associations - have been confirmed as the rightful owners of printed content."
The business of monitoring the media has proven to be a lucrative venture, both in Spain and abroad, but as the Documentación de Medios case demonstrates, not all media monitoring services operate with the necessary authorisation.
According to a report carried out by the AEDE in 2007, newspapers were losing an estimated 2.6% of circulation as a result of press-clipping companies. The same study also showed that around 36% of private and public businesses in Spain with a workforce of more than 200 people, received photocopies with a selection of cuttings published by the press.
Dating back to 1879, Spain's original copyright laws were influenced by the French system of the same period, where the likes of celebrated novelists such as Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, were behind a movement which sought to recognise and protect literary and artistic works. Today, the Berne Convention originally drawn up at the request of Hugo is still recognised as an internationally binding agreement governing copyright.
Earlier this month, the French courts saw through another type of intellectual property law, this time defining the rights of authors who publish work on the Internet. The anti-piracy bill was approved by a formidable majority of 189 compared to just 14 against. President Nicolas Sarkozy had made it know earlier in January, when he unveiled his newspaper bail-out plan, that he wanted to clamp down on Internet abuse. Responding to critics, French culture and communication minister Christine Albanel said at the time that "this draft law does not undermine any fundamental right," but will ensure the rights and works of authors are protected.
The ruling in Spain comes as Google has been criticised by many newspapers for revealing it plans to include advertising on its news pages. News aggregators, in general, are criticised by many within the media world for feeding off the work of others, although this is debated by the likes of Google who insist that - by driving traffic to news sites - they provide a fundamental service. It will be interesting to see how Spain's press and legal system aim to deal with these. In all likelihood, the press will strike while the iron is still hot.