EU Court Finds That Web Browsing Doesn't Violate Copyright Law
NEWS ANALYSIS: The European Union Courts of Justice throws out a convoluted copyright case in which a publisher claimed that the act of looking at material published on the Internet was actually illegal copying.A decision on June 5 by the European Courts of Justice that the act of browsing an Internet site does not constitute a copyright violation may sound obvious. But this concept isn't necessarily clear cut in the field of copyright law, even in the United States. In this particular case, a group of newspaper publishers decided that the act of sending story links to third parties violated the copyright to those stories because the people who then viewed those pages were making an illegal copy on their computer screens and browser caches. Those publishers sued Meltwater, a marketing services company based in San Francisco, when Meltwater started sending out links to newspaper articles to its clients. Initially, the Newspaper Licensing Agency took action in the Copyright Tribunal in the United Kingdom, which held that Internet browsing did, in fact, constitute illegal copying. Meltwater appealed, eventually to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Making the situation even more strange is that the newspapers represented by NLA already had posted their own stories on the Web, so they were available for anyone to read if they visited their Websites.
The NLA was trying to sell licenses to Meltwater and to its customer the Public Relations Consultants Association. So the licensing agency wanted the PR folks to pay to look at the Websites that anyone could browse to and look at for free.