London, 14 February 2012 – 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.
Also in support of smart updates to UK copyright, Prime Minister David Cameron stated in November 2010 that ‘The founders of Google have said they could never have started their company in Britain’ (owing to restrictive copyright law that inhibits innovation and economic growth).
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.
Those wishing to find out more about the Copyright Tribunal’s decision and what this means for businesses are invited to join a Twitter Q&A with Meltwater and the PRCA – details will be announced soon. For additional information about the ruling, see the FAQ, blog, Meltwater CEO’s statement and Copyright Tribunal decision (here).
About The Meltwater Group
The Meltwater Group is a privately held software company founded in Norway in 2001, serving more than 20,000 clients through 57 offices located across North America, South America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia. Meltwater is committed to challenging existing business models by introducing disruptive technologies. The Meltwater Group delivers B2B solutions based on search engine technology, cloud computing and search engine marketing. For more information, please visit https://www.meltwater.com.
About the PRCA
Who we are: Founded in 1969, the PRCA is the professional body that represents UK PR consultancies, in-house communications teams, PR freelancers and individuals. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and internal communications work, helping teams and individuals maximise the value they deliver to clients and organisations.
What we do: The Association exists to raise standards in PR and communications, providing members with industry data, facilitating the sharing of communications best practice and creating networking opportunities.
How we do it and make a difference: All PRCA members are bound by a professional charter and codes of conduct, and benefit from exceptional training. The Association also works for the greater benefit of the industry, sharing best practice and lobbying on the industry’s behalf e.g. fighting the NLA’s digital licence.
Who we represent: The PRCA represents many of the major consultancies in the UK, and currently has more than 250 agency members from around the world including the majority of the top 100 UK consultancies. We also represent around 70 in-house communications teams from multinationals, UK charities and leading UK public sector organisations.