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Update: UK High Court OKs Appeal Of Part Of Meltwater Copyright Case

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Looks like a small window of opportunity has opened for Meltwater News Service and the Public Relations Consultants Association in its case against the Newspaper Licensing Agency over copyright fees paid to the NLA for members’ newspaper articles that get summarized or reproduced by Meltwater.

The PRCA lost an appeal it made to try to fight these payments — so it will need to pay a fee to NLA — but it now has a chance to return to appeal one part of that ruling, concerning a temporary copying exception.

The ruling, from the UK’s Supreme Court, gives the PRCA, which represents a number of the major PR firms in the UK, the right to pursue an appeal at the Supreme Court on the grounds of the temporary copying exemption — although it is not clear yet if it will. We have contacted spokespeople for the PRCA and will update this post with any responses.

Update: The PRCA has now issued a statement, which sounds like it will that the NLA back to court on this issue. From the statement:

“The decision of the Supreme Court to allow the appeal reflects the significant potential ramifications (for society and the economy as a whole) of the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the scope of what is known as the “temporary copies” exception to copyright protection…The scope of the temporary copies exception is fundamental to how the Internet functions and both the PRCA and Meltwater welcome the decision to allow an appeal of the Court of Appeal’s very narrow interpretation.”

Temporary copying of copyright material, using automated technology, is already permitted under European and UK law.

The NLA — which represents eight main national newspaper publishers in the UK — has pointed out today that the PRCA will not be able to challenge two other parts of the original Court of Appeals ruling:
— That newspaper headlines “attract copyright” (hence royalty payments);
— That clients of Meltwater (such as PR agencies and corporate customers) will still need licenses from the NLA to receive copyrighted newspaper web material.

But it is worth watching whether a decision against the NLA over the temporary exemption potentially gets used by Meltwater and the PRCA to push ahead in its attempt to reduce the kinds of fees that the NLA requires them to pay, if not eliminate them altogether.

Important to note that neither the original ruling nor today’s news affects individual users: the NLA license fees are aimed only at commercial media monitoring companies who profit from reproducing these stories in one form or another, and their clients.

The NLA is already collecting such licensing fees from clients who receive paper clippings, and intends to bring the fees it charges those who get online clippings up to the same level as those who get the printed clippings.

The parties are still awaiting ruling from the Copyright Tribunal on final pricing and terms of those NLA web licenses.