PRCA and Meltwater return to court

The PRCA and Meltwater are to meet the Newspaper Licensing Agency in court again today over online newspaper clippings and copyright.

Francis Ingham: PRCA director general
Francis Ingham: PRCA director general

The two-day hearing in the Supreme Court will address another challenge by the PRCA and Meltwater, a media monitoring service, to the NLA's arrangements for licensing online newspaper articles. 

The PRCA’s legal battles with the NLA in support of Meltwater started three years ago this month. It joined in when Meltwater took a case to the Copyright Tribunal against NLA over its licensing scheme for online articles. After the Tribunal ruled in the PRCA/Meltwater’s favour in March 2010, the NLA won a High Court challenge in November 2010.

The PRCA then took the case to the Court of Appeal, forcing the NLA to reduce its fees for web licensing in February 2012. It has since pursued the issue of how copyright law affects the NLA’s arrangements to the Supreme Court. 

The exact issue to be decided in this hearing is whether the copies created when accessing a web page are exempt from copyright protection by reason of the temporary copies exception provided by section 28A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.

Francis Ingham, the PRCA director-general, said: ‘We believe that the Court of Appeal’s ruling has implications on the millions of people using the Internet, who, due to that decision, are now infringing copyright that have been lawfully put online.’

The opposite view is held by the Newspaper Licensing Agency. Its commercial director Andrew Hughes said: ‘This Supreme Court appeal does not affect current services; instead, it raises a hypothetical issue – whether a heavily revised service in which the end user did not receive copyright material but only opened articles on a publisher site might be validated by the "temporary copying" exception. 

‘NLA argue this exception is very limited and only applies to intermediaries, such as ISPs to allow networks to pass data; the PRCA (on the same side as Meltwater) that it applies to any browsing by users. That is what the Supreme Court will address.’

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