Summary: NLA v Meltwater Online Copyright Case

summary of NLA v Meltwater online copyright caseKeeping abreast of international Internet laws is wise for two main reasons:

  1. If customers in another country can interact with your site, there’s a strong possibility it’s subject to laws in the users’ jurisdictions; and
  2. Foreign legal happenings could impact future U.S. Internet law legislation.

So, it is in that spirit that we’ll review an important international online copyright case, NLA v Meltwater.

Press Clipping Agency Sues Online News Outlet: NLA v Meltwater

Plaintiffs: The  Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) is a U.K.-based copyright license firm. Subscribers to the service are allowed to reprint syndicated news articles. Basic argument: content creators should be compensated for their work.

Defendants: Meltwater News is a self-described “media intelligence” agency that provides users with news metrics for better brand positioning. Basic argument: Due to the proliferation of search engines, NLA licensing fees should be obsolete.

Reason For Lawsuit: As a test case, NLA sued Meltwater for linking to protected content without paying a media licensing fee.

Judges Rule In Favor Of Press Clipping Agency

NLA v Meltwater eventually landed in the Court of Appeal. Ultimately, the judges sided with the NLA, condoning the agency’s licensing fees. Additionally, the court ruled that Meltwater’s clients must have licenses to even access Meltwater data.

But wait, there’s more!

The judges also deemed headlines “separate literary works” (from the article), thereby allowing NLA to collect even more fees!

Possible International Internet Law Implications Of NLA v Meltwater

Britain’s Supreme Court will likely hear the case in 2013. For now, uncertainty abounds as to whether or not clicking a link to a news story constitutes copyright infringement.

NLA v. Meltwater could shake up the international Internet law status quo. If the high court upholds the appeal court’s ruling, who’s to say that other news agencies, or anyone who produces web content, won’t sue over links to headlines? Can you imagine having to pay a blanket copyright licensing fee just to post source links on your website, or face the consequences for copyright infringement?

No one begrudges the NLA for protecting a revenue stream. But in this case, the unintended copyright licensing consequences may spawn, as the Brits say, “bloody awful” international Internet law conflicts down the road.

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