CJEU supports company and favors internet freedom

In a legal case the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on June 5th ruled that Internet users have the right to browse online freely without the threat of copyright infringement. The ruling marks the end of five years of litigation between publisher copyright group, the NLA, and a company by the name of Meltwater, provider of online intelligence solutions delivering big data insights, backed by the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).

The NLA had claimed that browser-cached copies automatically saved on a computer while browsing the web, and as much images appearing on a computer monitor contravened copyright law. However, the CJEU found the NLA’s claims to be covered by the temporary copy exception in EU law, confirming an earlier ruling from the UK Supreme Court.

So what does this mean?

Clearly, the significance of this judgement is far-reaching and important. It ensures that people across Europe retain their Internet freedoms to view or browse online content, which in the case of the NLA newspaper publishers was made freely available by the rights holders, and that their rights are protected from overreaching copyright collectors. Without this decision, millions of average citizens would be violating the law every day by simply using a search engine or just browsing the Internet.

An adverse ruling in this case could have left the door open for publishers of potentially any form of content to claim copyright infringement whenever a link is viewed over the Internet. This would have threatened basic tenets of Internet freedom, could have had untold negative and unfair impact and fact to the matter is, potentially made you and I a criminal.

“We are pleased that the Court of Justice has stepped in to set an important precedent for Internet freedom across the European Union,” said Jorn Lyseggen, CEO of Meltwater. “This ruling serves the interests of business, technology and millions of Internet users and ensures they are protected from being accused of copyright infringement. Meltwater is a strong believer in copyright and a strong supporter of a sustainable, independent press. However, we are pleased that the Court has interpreted the copyright law in a way that allows citizens to use the Internet without fear of unintentional infringement.”

“We are utterly delighted that the CJEU has accepted all of our arguments against the NLA, which represents eight national newspapers,” comments PRCA Director General Francis Ingham. “The Court of Justice, like the Supreme Court before them, understands that the NLA’s attempts to charge for sharing online content does not just affect the PR world, but the fundamental rights of all EU citizens to browse the Internet. This is a huge step in the right direction for the courts as they seek ways to deal with issues of Internet use and copyright law.”

Background to the CJEU ruling

  • Dating back to 2009, Meltwater, backed by the PRCA, took the NLA to the Copyright Tribunal over its licensing scheme for online articles.
  • As the litigation proceeded, one of the questions was whether cached copies of online news content made when a user surfs the web, violated a copyright holders rights.
  • In April 2013, the UK Supreme Court ruled in favor of PRCA and Meltwater’s position, and referred the ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union as they believe it would have impact far wider than the UK.

Those wishing to find out more about the CJEU’s judgement can view the ruling on the Court of Justice of the European Union website.

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