News aggreggator Meltwater and the PRCA have won the latest stage in their copyright battle with the Newspaper Licensing Agency.
But the NLA says the UK Supreme Court ruling which clarifies the copyright law on browsing the internet will not affect the £1.5m a year-plus income currently derived from selling licences to press cuttings companies like Meltwater which charge clients for sending them summaries of news headlines and online story links.
According to the NLA, the ruling may mean that it no longer charges end users for receiving these summaries but levies all its fees on the aggregators like Meltwater.
The Supreme Court appeal was one aspect of the 2011 Court of Appeal ruling that went mainly in favour of the NLA.
That ruling upheld the right of newspapers to charge a licence fee to those who sell on packages of aggregated weblinks and headlines.
The NLA also collects fees from companies which send out press cuttings and annually raises some £30m for the newspaper and magazine industry.
This week’s Supreme Court ruling has now been referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union for final approval and clarification.
The PRCA is a trade body for the PR industry, which is the biggest user of press cuttings agencies. Director Francis Ingham said: “We are delighted that the UK Supreme Court has accepted all of our arguments, which we look forward to making again at the CJEU. The Supreme Court understood that this does not just affect the PR world, but the fundamental rights of all EU citizens to browse the internet.”
Meltwater chief executive Jorn Lyssegenn said: “We are very pleased that the Supreme Court overruled the previous rulings of the Court of Appeals and the High Court that the simple act of browsing the Internet could be copyright infringement.
"This ruling is an important step in modernising the interpretation of UK copyright law and protects UK Internet users from overreaching copyright collectors.”
The NLA said in a statement: “There is no immediate impact on the NLA web licences. Newspaper headlines and text extracts continue to attract copyright, Media Monitoring Organisations (MMO’s) will continue to require licences for the content they distribute, and end users will continue to require a licence for the content they receive by e-mail. The ECJ is expected to take many months to reach a conclusion so it could be two or three years before any final order is made.”
NLA managing director David Pugh said: “We will now await the ECJ’s judgement on this matter –which may take some time regardless of the final outcome, we welcome the fact that core NLA principles have been upheld by the Supreme Court – paid-for web monitoring services using publishers’ content require copyright licences and therefore remuneration for publishers.”
“We are also pleased to see that the Supreme Court acknowledged that if an end user of an alert service delivered as a web link (rather than by e-mail) were not required to pay a licence fee, then Meltwater’s licence fee would very likely be substantially higher – a view that the NLA expressed before the Copyright Tribunal last year.”