Web Browsing and Copyright Infringement

The UK Supreme Court has recently held that readers who browse websites containing copyright material are not infringing the rights of the copyright owners.  It overturned the High Court’s ruling that web browsing was breaching the copyright of newspaper owners.  It started back in 2010 with the News Paper Licensing Agency bringing a law suit against Meltwater a media monitoring company for their news clip services which consisted of headlines that link to news items to which customers could access newspaper articles.

The UK Supreme Court decided to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for them to make a definitive ruling on whether temporary copies made by computers to allow material to be read online were in breach of copyright laws.

The judges of the ECJ unanimously agreed to that if the copying was only in relation to viewing the content then copyright law would not be infringed.  The ECJ held that “if it is an infringement to merely view copyright material, without downloading or printing out, then those who browse the internet are likely unintentionally to incur civil liability, at least in principle, by merely coming upon a web-page containing copyright material in the course of browsing”.

The chief executive of Meltwater, Jorn Lyssegen stated that the decision was an “important step in modernizing the interpretation of the UK copyright law and protects UK Internet users from overreaching copyright collectors”.

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