A group of national newspapers and the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) have won a copyright battle against Meltwater, a news monitoring company, and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).
Meltwater offers a news monitoring service to clients, mostly marketing and PR companies, whereby it uses technology to scan newspaper websites for topics that clients want to keep track of, then notifies clients of relevant news articles.
The national newspapers and the NLA argued that the service provided by Meltwater resulted in infringement of the newspapers' copyright. Their reasoning for this was that viewing an article on a newspaper website means viewers are making a copy of it and although websites allow this for private use by individuals, it should not be permitted for commercial use.
In November 2010, the High Court found in favour of the newspapers and NLA, and ruled that material on newspapers' websites, including headlines, was protected by copyright. The Court of Appeal recently upheld the decision of the High Court. News monitoring agencies, such as Meltwater, as well as users of these services will therefore require a licence from the Newspaper Licensing Authority (NLA) to view and use material from newspapers' websites in order to avoid breaching their copyright. The decision is a welcome one for the publishing industry who feel that substantial investment is made in web content therefore they are entitled to receive some benefit when organisations such as Meltwater are profiting from their work.
Meltwater, on the other hand, argues that their business is not a threat to newspapers as they actually direct users towards newspapers' websites. Whilst Meltwater accepts that they need to have a licence themselves, they object to the fact that users also require a licence to access content which they would ordinarily be able to access for free. Meltwater are now considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.