The PRCA organised a debate at the British Library with representatives from all of the parties concerned and an audience made up of professionals from the PR and media industry.Meltwater and the PRCA are back in the High Court next week to challenge the ruling from November last year that found in favour of the NLA. The ruling grants inbound internet links a copyrighted status that would require any businesses circulating them to obtain a licence from the NLA.
The NLA Web End User Licence scheme as it stands would see everyone involved in distributing or receiving links on a commercial basis (monitoring agency, aggregator, agency and client) pay a levy. It is an attempt to prop up a knackered business model in a very limited way.University of Cambridge IP Professor Lionel Bentley didn’t pull any punches when he called the original High Court ruling absurd. He said that on the same basis any headline, or title of a book or movie, has copyrighted status.
The NLA scheme is supported by its newspaper members, the majority of which outlaw the commercial distribution of links from their sites in their terms and conditions. But in 2011 when those same publishers increasingly rely on their audience to freely share and circulate content it seems increasingly outdated.Google Alerts is excluded from the scheme as it is free at the point of source.
The panel discussion kept returning to the fact that we’re at a time and a place where technology and digital media is ahead of business models, and more crucially the law. In that sense next week’s case in the High Court could be the start of the reform the UK’s archaic copyright laws.
“We’ll look back at this debate in five or ten years’ time and it will be a tiny parenthesis in the history of copyright in the UK,” he said.When I caught up with Meltwater’s CEO Jorn Lyssegen after the event he was philosophical about the forthcoming court battle that his firm is leading.
The case will be heard in the Court of Appeal between 15 and 17 June. Following the Court of Appeal, which will decide on elements of law relating to the proposed licence, a Copyright Tribunal hearing will be in September will determine the fairness of the proposed terms of the licence.The PRCA should be congratulated for organising tonight’s event; the views of the PR industry continue to be well represented on this issue. And Meltwater as a lone voice among clipping agencies and aggregators deserves credit for leading the challenge, as does the NLA for turning up and openly debating this issue.