TUESDAY 14 FEB 2012 3:05 PM


In the latest legal judgment concerning the copyright licensing case being fought between the NLA and Meltwater supported by the PRCA, a Copyright Tribunal ruling has found that the fees proposed by the NLA should be cut – by what Meltwater and the PRCA estimate could be up to 90%.

A release issued by Meltwater also flags up the fact that the NLA intends to ‘pursue licensing of UK business users of Google News’, which Pugh confirms, but emphasises that this will be limited to business usage. David Pugh, managing director of the NLA, has termed Meltwater’s approach “scare tactics”.

“The Tribunal has ruled on the fairness of the licenses,” says Pugh, “and it also covered whether free services (such as Google News) that are being used in a systematic way by businesses to circulate newspaper content, for example putting links on an intranet or in a newsletter.”

The license required to cover business use of free news services is already contained in the basic NLA license possessed by many of the agency’s clients.

The Tribunal’s ruling has cut the fees that the NLA can charge from 2013 onwards. Meltwater estimates the savings to be ‘at least £100 million’ over the next three years, and Francis Ingham, chief executive of the PRCA, calls the decision “a huge win” and maintains that the case will continue.

Meltwater and the PRCA, having fought the legality of the licensing through the UK courts, now intend to take an aspect of the Court of Appeal’s judgment to the Supreme Court, to determine the legality of the decision over the temporary copying exception. “The ability to browse the Internet without fear of infringing copyright has always been a fundamental Internet principle," says Jorn Lyseggen, CEO of Meltwater. "Meltwater is a strong believer in copyright, but the UK needs a copyright law that allow its citizens to use the Internet without fear of unintentional infringement."

The conclusions of the Copyright Tribunal were never intended to determine the overall legality of the NLA’s licensing scheme, but implicitly support the double-licensing proposals which have proved so contentious and which form the backbone of Meltwater and the PRCA’s disagreement with the agency, stating that service providers and end users may choose to take out licenses covering different territories (see 260.xi of the judgment).

The Tribunal has, however, rejected Meltwater’s case that headlines should be exempt from copyright licensing or treated differently under copyright legislation, upholding the judgments of both the High Court and the Court of Appeal when it comes to the existence of copyright in headlines.


September 2011: Meltwater and PRCA given permission to appeal in case vs. NLA

August 2011: IP Overhaul: government accepts all points of Hargreaves Review

July 2011: Court of Appeal rules for NLA in copyright case