PRCA wins landmark ‘right to browse’ ruling

About the author

Richard Bailey Hon FCIPR is editor of PR Academy's PR Place Insights. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.

Francis Ingham at the Court of Justice of the European Union
Francis Ingham at the Court of Justice of the European Union

The PRCA today won a landmark ruling against the Newspaper Licensing Agency at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), handing Internet users the right to browse online freely without the threat of infringing copyright law.

The CJEU accepted all of the arguments of the PRCA and Meltwater against the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA), that browsing and viewing articles online does not require authorisation from the copyright holder, following a battle through the UK courts that began in 2010.

The judgment means that Internet users are now protected by the temporary copy exception of EU copyright law when they read or browse content online.

PRCA Director General Francis Ingham said:

“We are utterly delighted that the CJEU has accepted all of our arguments against the NLA, which represents eight national newspapers. The Court of Justice, like the Supreme Court before them, understands that the NLA’s attempts to charge for reading online content do not just affect the PR world, but the fundamental rights of all EU citizens to browse the Internet. This is a huge step in the right direction for the courts as they seek ways to deal with the thorny issues of Internet use and copyright law.”

“We are pleased that we have stood up for the PR industry –along with Meltwater – when everyone else rolled over.”

Jorn Lyseggen, CEO of Meltwater, said:

“We are pleased that the European Court of Justice has stepped in to set an important precedent for Internet freedom across the European Union. This ruling serves the interests of business, technology and millions of Internet users and ensures protection from being accused of copyright infringement. Meltwater is a strong believer in copyright and a strong supporter of a sustainable, independent press. However, we are pleased that the Court has interpreted the copyright law in a way that allows citizens to use the Internet without fear of unintentional infringement.”

In April 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone should be free to visit and read or browse a newspaper website without fear of infringing copyright law. In his judgment, Lord Jonathan Sumption explained it was desirable that any decision on the point of accessing such content be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

In a previous UK Copyright Tribunal ruling, the PRCA and Meltwater were successful in reducing the fees for all businesses, saving millions for UK businesses.

For further background on this case, please read here.