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Meltwater case to be re-examined in the UK Supreme Court

29 November 2011

The UK’s “temporary copying” exception is likely to be at issue in an appeal of the decision in the Meltwater News case by the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).

According to recent UK media reports, the PRCA’s appeal of the decision made by the UK Court of Appeals will focus on whether the end users of the Meltwater News media monitoring service are covered by the UK “temporary copying” exception when they access web pages through the service.

The public relations group Meltwater offers UK businesses a paid-for online media monitoring service. In January 2009, the NLA – a copyright collecting society acting on behalf of the majority of the UK’s national newspapers – introduced licences to cover paid-for online media monitoring services such as those offered by Meltwater. Under the new licences, the NLA requires payment from media monitoring services crawling its content, as well as payment from the end-users receiving the service.

Meltwater argued that the use of the monitoring reports by end users does not infringe copyright and so their clients do not need a licence. However, in July this year, the Court of Appeal found that the receipt and use by an end-user of Meltwater news would constitute an infringement in either, or both, the headlines or the articles on the publisher websites.

The PRCA has said in a recent press release that the licensing schemes have, “resulted in an interpretation of UK copyright law by the Court of Appeal which effectively puts millions of UK citizens into conflict with the law every time they visit a website or click on a link because the inevitable transient copies of webpages made in the process of browsing are not exempt from copyright by the temporary copies exception” [4].

The temporary copies exception essentially exempts certain incidental temporary copying that occurs as part of a technological process (such as when accessing a webpage) [5]. However, Managing Director of the NLA, David Pugh, has argued that the case “does not affect ordinary people using websites. It is about the commercial exploitation of newpaper content by commercial operators in ways which are not permitted by the wesites…”.

The PRCA and Meltwater have also taken action in the UK Copyright Tribunal regarding the overall fairness of the NLA’s licensing schemes and are still awaiting this decision.

To read more about this story go to: http://www.copyright.org.au/news-and-policy/details/id/2025/

For inquiries relating to publishing and copyright law please contact Adam Simpson.

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