Today, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that Internet users have the right to browse the internet freely without the risk of copyright infringement. Without this decision, millions of European internet users would be infringing on the law every day with the simple act of opening their browser and would have left the door open for publishers of any form of internet content to claim copyright fees whenever a web page is viewed.
Today’s important ruling marks the culmination of five years of litigation between the UK Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd. (NLA) and Meltwater (see my previous post on the topic here) and overthrows two frightening rulings in the UK court system stating that “cached” copies automatically saved on a computer while browsing the web, and images appearing on a computer monitor contravene copyright law. It took 5 years and appeals all the way to the UK Supreme Court to have these dangerous rulings overthrown. The UK Supreme Court referred their contrary ruling to the CJEU to create harmonization of law across Europe, and CJEU responded by creating a blanket protecting millions of internet users’ daily habit across Europe. Finally, sanity prevailed.
The UK rulings that today were buried are ugly monuments of a dangerously outdated court system. A society can not be served by a copyright law that criminalizes commonplace behavior of millions of its people. Meltwater believes in the importance of copyright, but will fight overreaching copyright claims in violation of basic rights of Meltwater clients, important internet principles, and common sense.
Today is therefore a proud day here at Meltwater. We didn’t allow ourselves to be bullied. We challenged the unreasonable claims from NLA, ended up slashing the fees for our industry with more than £100 million during the 3 first years, and in the process writing copyright laws in the UK and across Europe.
I am proud that Meltwater took on this fight. It started out as a fight on behalf of our clients. Involuntarily we ended up together with our friends at PRCA being the only ones to challenge the NLA and the misguided UK copyright rulings. As a Norwegian start-up we did find that a bit puzzling, but we were hanging in there because we believed these principles were too important to throw in the towel.
Thank you for all your support in bringing the NLA process to a happy closure. Thank you to all our clients that have provided their support and been cheering us on from the sideline. Thank you to all Meltwater employees that had to deal with questions and worries from the market during these 5 years. Your determination paid off. We were able to right a wrong in the end.
We have come a long way from when we were two guys and a coffee machine in a shack and with funding of $15,000 USD. We are today a global leader in our space with 50 offices on 6 continents and counting more than 20,000 of the world’s most innovative companies as our clients. We have some exciting times ahead of us! Some roadblocks should be anticipated : ) But with your continued support I am confident that we will be able to stay the course regardless of what should come our way.