PR v newspapers: European court to rule on test case which has implications for the future of the Internet

 

Media Editor

A European Court will tomorrow issue a landmark judgment that could have major implications for the public’s future use of the Internet as it decides a bitter five-year dispute between the press and the public relations industry.

The Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg is due to rule on whether stories published on newspaper websites should be subject to copyright law. The PR sector, represented by industry body the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), claims that if it loses the case then any member of the public reading an online news story could be liable for infringement of copyright.

But the press, led by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA), argues that it is only seeking to licence those who are making commercial use of the newspaper content, such as professional media monitoring agencies. The NLA believes that if the court sides with the PRs then an “online pirates’ charter” will have been created, with serious implications for creative industries and their online output. It has been suggested that more newspaper sites will be driven behind paywalls to protect the monetary value of their content.

The ruling comes in the wake of the EU court’s recent “right to be forgotten” ruling which allowed individuals to demand that Google removes links to stories that are deemed “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.

At the heart of the case is what constitutes “making a copy” of a press article. The PRCA, which is fighting the case alongside an international media monitoring company Meltwater Group, believes that the ruling could make the act of clicking on a story and creating a copy of the article in the cache of a computer or mobile an infringement of copyright.

The five-year battle began when the NLA introduced a licensing scheme in 2009 to charge companies that were making commercial use of content published on newspaper sites. The licences cost £5,000-£10,000 a year for the companies that commercially “scrape” newspaper sites for stories, and around £480-a-year for clients who take the service. The PR sector is concerned that such client licences would make their work unviable.

The NLA – which represents all the big newspaper publishing groups, including the owners of The Independent – believes that such charges, broadly similar to those demanded by the Performing Rights Society for commercial use of music, properly reward content creators and help sustain British journalism. The press industry body argues that there is no suggestion that individual web users who use newspaper sites for non-commercial use should be subject to licensing.

In a blog posting, Toby Headdon, senior associate at Berwin Leighton Paisner, which is representing the NLA, said the case could represent “the thin end of the wedge” for rights-holders of online content. “For end-users who use a web browser to view streamed content (including pirated content) or to access content which is stored in the cloud, the Internet will be a copyright-free zone.”

After the NLA drew up its licensing scheme in 2009, Meltwater refused to accept that there was a legal case that it required it to have a licence to operate. The matter went to a hearing at the High Court, which in 2010 ruled that online newspapers were covered by copyright regulation. The following year the Court of Appeal upheld that decision and declared that businesses which subscribed to a paid-for media monitoring service also required a licence for receiving the copyrighted material.

Last year Meltwater, supported by the PRCA, took the case on appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing that the act of accessing a web page was only temporary and should be exempted from copyright law. The Supreme Court favoured the appeal.

The European Court is due to make a final decision on whether an alerts service, containing one or more web links, should be subject to an exemption which the press body claims was only designed to protect not-for-profit use of its material.

Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA, said: We very much hope that the CJEU’s decision will be in our favour, in light of previous sensible CJEU decisions and the compelling reasoning of the UK Supreme Court.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and Nick Frost star in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Guru Careers: PR Account Manager / PR AM

£28 - 34k: Guru Careers: An ambitious PR Account Manager is needed to join a c...

Guru Careers: Web Content Editor / Web Editor

£35 - 45k: Guru Careers: A Web Content Editor / Web Editor is needed to join a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran