Tim Buckley Owen Clipping service customers need a licence
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By Tim Buckley Owen


Customers of press clippings services must have a licence of their own in addition to that taken out by the commercial service they use, the High Court in London has ruled. Otherwise they will be infringing copyright. 'By clicking on a link to an article, the end user will make a copy of the article... and will be in possession of an infringing copy' within the meaning of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, Mrs Justice Proudman stated in the High Court in a case involving the clippings service Meltwater. 'By forwarding Meltwater News or its contents to clients an end user will issue to the public copies of the work', also within the meaning of the Act, she held. 'In all the circumstances I find that without a licence from the publishers there is infringement of the publishers' copyright by the end users in receiving and using Meltwater News,' she concluded. (Full ruling at http://digbig.com/5bcyxb or see Out-Law's résumé at http://digbig.com/5bcyxc).

Part of the ruling turned on whether headlines were original enough to be capable of being independent literary works. The judge held that some were, although others were simply part of the article. This contrasts with a recent Australian court ruling that headlines were too short and insubstantial to qualify for copyright protection (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e30463). But it ties in with an earlier European Court of Justice view that, by copying a snippet as short as 11 words, a clippings service could be infringing copyright (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e22684).

It was last May that the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) decided to go to the High Court for a definitive ruling on whether its licence was legal (see http://www.vivavip.com/go/e29171 for background). This was separate from the Copyright Tribunal's consideration of the commercial aspects of NLA web licensing, which came about following a case brought by Meltwater with the support of the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), on which a ruling is expected next February (more background at http://www.vivavip.com/go/e27632 and http://www.vivavip.com/go/e27815).

Welcoming the High Court decision, NLA managing director David Pugh said that he now looked forward to 'as swift and complete a resolution as possible for all parties' from the forthcoming Copyright Tribunal case. 'Like the NLA, the 22 licensed monitoring companies want clarity to develop their businesses,' he added (http://digbig.com/5bcyxd). PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham said that he was 'disappointed' with the High Court ruling, believing it to be 'fundamentally flawed' and stating that the PRCA had been given leave to appeal (http://digbig.com/5bcyxe). Meltwater called it 'dangerous', adding that it 'undermines the basic principles of the operation and use of the Internet'; it is also challenging through the Copyright Tribunal 'the aggressive fee structure and the terms demanded from our clients' (http://digbig.com/5bcyxf).

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