Meltwater group logo

News aggregator Meltwater disputes the need for its users to obtain NLA licences

A copyright dispute between news aggregator Meltwater and the Newspaper Licensing Agency over the use of online newspaper content will appear before the UK's copyright tribunal today.

In July, Meltwater lost its appeal over a ruling which found its users would need to pay a licence in order for the company to distribute online news content.

The NLA,
which is owned by the UK's eight national newspaper groups, introduced a scheme in September 2009 which licenses media monitoring organisations such as Meltwater, and the use of its members' websites with the granting of a web database license.

It also announced a further scheme in January last year, for licensing the use of its members' websites by end users of media monitoring services, such as public relations consultants, through a web end user licence.

The media monitoring service originally referred the NLA licence to the UK copyright tribunal in 2009. At this point the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) joined the case in support of Meltwater and on behalf of its members.

NLA took Meltwater and the PRCA to the High Court in 2010, winning a judgement that web links for online news were protected by copyright law.

PRCA and Meltwater referred the case to the court of appeal where chancellor of the high court Sir Andrew Morritt said he agreed with the high court ruling that end users of Meltwater's service would also require a licence from the Newspaper Licensing Authority (NLA) or the relevant publisher, to avoid infringing copyright.

He did however add that there may be cases where neither the headline nor the 'scrapings' of online news constitute a copyright work or a substantial part of a copyright work.

"A licence would not be required in such a case but there cannot be many of them," he said in the judgement.

"Accordingly I consider that the form of declaration requires some modification, such as the insertion of the words 'most if not all' before the words 'members of the PRCA'."

Meltwater and PRCA are currently seeking permission to appeal the issue of temporary copying to the Supreme Court.

Meltwater says it has agreed to take out the NLA licence for itself, once the copyright tribunal has determined if a licence is "reasonable".

The case is scheduled to go on until 26 September, although it may finish earlier than this.

In a release
David Pugh, managing director of NLA, said the agency enters the tribunal "confident in the knowledge that the scheme was carefully designed and fairly priced in consultation with the media monitoring industry over an 18 month period".

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).