Court of Appeal upholds copyright in web headlines

The Court of Appeal has upheld the right of newspapers to charge a licence fee to those who sell on packages of aggregated weblinks and headlines.

It means the Newspaper Licensing Agency, which charges for the use of press cuttings, has won the latest battle in its long-running legal fight with media monitoring company Meltwater and the Public Relations Consultants Association.

But Meltwater and the PRCA want to seek a further appeal to the Supreme Court. And they could yet overturn the NLA’s right to charge for licences at the Copyright Tribunal – which has yet to hear the case.

The dispute goes back to September 2009 when the NLA first sought to charge a £10,000 licence fee to those who sell-on aggregated packages of online newspaper headlines and links. The PRCA got involved because the many PR companies which use press cuttings services also have to pay for licences.

Meltwater CEO Jorn Lyseggen said: ‘This ruling has a negative impact that goes way beyond our industry – a huge part of the internet ecosystem will be affected by this. Millions of website users are made copyright offenders by this ruling.”

According to Meltwater’s interpretation of the ruling, it stated that ‘the technological process of displaying a web page on a computer is not ‘temporary copy’ exempt from copyright”.

The Newspaper Licensing Agency welcomed yesterday’s ruling.

Managing director David Pugh said: ‘The Court of Appeal has unequivocally confirmed the ruling of the High Court that online newspapers are copyright protected. It has given a clear declaration that most (if not all) businesses subscribing to a media monitoring service that contains content from online newspapers require a licence. We welcome this ruling and the clarity it provides for publishers, media monitoring agencies and their clients.

“This positive interpretation of UK copyright law provides legal clarity and certainty for all players in the market. Publishers can be sure of fair royalties for the use of their content, suppliers of paid-for online monitoring services will benefit from a level playing field and clients of such services know that their licence provides a simple way to guarantee compliance with the law.

“It also provides a clear vindication of our decision to have two licences, one for paid-for online monitoring service providers and one for their customers. Now we have legal clarity, we look forward to the Copyright Tribunal review of the commercial aspects of newspaper website licensing.”

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