Tuesday 14 February 2012

Meltwater: Copyright Tribunal ruling -- now for the other side of the coin

While I was digesting the media release on behalf of the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) for an earlier post here, Meltwater Group and the PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association) issued their own, quite upbeat release too. It reads, in relevant part:
"Today’s Copyright Tribunal ruling makes it clear that the UK’s copyright law is on a head-on collision with the average Internet user. Everyday acts such as searching for news and sharing it at work now require a license from the Newspaper Licensing Association (NLA). In a win for business, Meltwater Group and the PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association) were able to convince the Copyright Tribunal to slash the NLA’s proposed license fees by 90 per cent. Sadly today’s verdict is only a partial victory for the UK Internet community. Going forward, it is clear that UK clients of online news monitoring services will need a license agreement with the NLA and pay copyright fees. This is also the case for commercial UK clients of any news monitoring vendor including Google News. During the proceedings, the NLA stated that it has been mandated by its owners and intends to pursue licensing of UK business users of Google News.

These UK court rulings make millions of UK citizens lawbreakers. According to the courts, sending an email to a work colleague with a news headline, browsing a free news service or sending a Tweet with news at work requires a licence from the publishers, without such licence they infringe copyright. UK copyright law needs an overhaul to make it compatible with the Internet. Without such modernization, millions of people will unintentionally break the law every day.

Today’s decision in the Copyright Tribunal is part of an on-going series of cases where Meltwater and the PRCA challenged the NLA on its high fees for reading freely available news. In the ruling, the Copyright Tribunal agreed with Meltwater and the PRCA's contention that the NLA's proposed licensing scheme was not reasonable and required amendment. Nine points were challenged by Meltwater and the Tribunal agreed with Meltwater on seven of them. By fighting this licensing scheme, the PRCA and Meltwater were successful in reducing the fees for all businesses totalling more than £100 million over the next three years. The savings for Meltwater clients alone are more than £24 million in the same period.

“The ability to browse the Internet without fear of infringing copyright has always been a fundamental Internet principle. Society is not served by these rulings in UK and it seems that this interpretation of the law fundamentally clashes with how millions of people use the Internet every day,” says Jorn Lyseggen, CEO of Meltwater. “Meltwater is a strong believer in copyright and a strong supporter of a sustainable, independent press. However, the UK needs a copyright law that allow its citizens to use the Internet without fear of unintentional infringement.”

Meltwater and the PRCA continue to advocate for a modern copyright law for the UK. Notwithstanding the Tribunal's decision, Meltwater and the PRCA are appealing aspects of the Court of Appeal's decision on web browsing to the UK Supreme Court scheduled for February 2013. Also encouraging are several recent decisions of the European Union Court of Justice that are consistent with Meltwater and the PRCA’s position. In addition to attention from the judiciary, Vince Cable, UK Business Secretary, recommended in August that the UK government should change these out-of-date copyright laws based on the recommendations of the Hargreaves Report: Digital Opportunity – A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth. The UK Intellectual Property Office estimated that changes to the law will bring £7.9 billion to the UK economy. With copyright rules that are friendly to both publishers and businesses, the UK economy will create a new layer of services that help publishers make more money and increase UK tax revenues. ...

Importantly, the ruling is unique to the UK and only impacts people reading and sharing news in that country. As recognised by the Copyright Tribunal, copyright is governed by national law and users of media monitoring services outside UK are not subject to NLA licensing fees today.

Meltwater and the PRCA have stood alone in challenging the NLA’s licensing scheme both in the courts, and in the Copyright Tribunal, on behalf of PR agencies, in-house PR teams and all other business users of the Internet. If unchallenged, the NLA’s scheme would have increased costs not only for Meltwater customers but also for all users of commercial media monitoring services, many of whom are PRCA members ...".
I have just heard from my blogging colleague Asim Singh that Associated Press is commencing proceedings against Meltwater in the United States -- so I think we can assume that this conflict has gone global.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In English, you 'lobby for', but you don't 'advocate for'. It is quite sufficient to 'advocate'. If you want to be really wordy (we hope you don't), you can 'act as an advocate for'