If you are reading this on an internet browser you may be relieved to know that you are not infringing copyright law. Thanks to the recent Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decision in Public Relations Consultants Association Ltd v Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd, internet users who view copyright protected material online through content aggregators (like Google News or Lexology) do not require a licence to view such material provided they do not download or print a copy of it.
The CJEU held that users who view material online and as a result make temporary copies of it on their screen and hard drives benefit from “the temporary copying” exemption under EU Law. Making temporary copies of material viewed online was said by the Court to be an essential part of internet browsing which does not violate copyright owners’ legitimate interests.
The decision has obvious implications for content aggregators and their users. While printing or downloading a copyright protected work will infringe copyright, merely viewing it online will not (provided it is legally put online in the first place). The decision means that ordinary internet browsing of content aggregator sites does not require a licence from copyright holders because the temporary copying exemption applies. This is a relief for internet users and content providers alike and the case was watched intensely by the industry. If the CJEU had decided the case the other way, millions of internet users could be infringing copyright simply by browsing the internet.