Meltwater update: new licence fees set for online press-aggregator services

Following on from my earlier blog on the Meltwater ruling, the Copyright Tribunal has now approved a pricing structure for Meltwater’s activities.

The Meltwater case concerned a long running dispute between Meltwater (a press clippings service provider) and the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) (the body that licenses content to many UK newspapers) over whether or not online press-aggregator or news alert arrangements require a NLA licence.

In the Tribunal’s interim judgment, issued back in February, the Tribunal ruled that headlines of articles were covered by UK Copyright laws and as such, a licence is required where links to articles are circulated to businesses – whether the link is accompanied by an extract of the relevant article or not.

As this cast the NLA’s revenue net much more widely than before, it did agree to reduce the applicable licence fees payable by Meltwater, and other press-aggregator service providers. It was agreed that the fees would be set using a sliding scale based on the number of end users of the service. this sliding scale as now been set by the Tribnunal.

As stated in the interim judgment, the new licence fee table is weighted differently from the previous structure, being dependant on the number of users. Most notably the fees payable for organisations with fewer employees has been decreased, and the fees upped for larger organisations. The table can be viewed here.

What does this mean for me?
The NLA introduced web licences for media monitoring organisations (such as Meltwater) and their clients in January 2010, but suspended fees pending the Tribunal’s decision. The NLA will commence invoicing for licence fees next month, backdated to 1 January 2010. If you currently have a NLA licence, except a bill!

As I noted in my last blog, the Tribunal’s decisions leave open what will happen to those organisations that use a free aggregation service such as Google News, rather than a paid-for service like Meltwater. The Tribunal’s view is that both provide the same service (the free service is a simply a different way of monetising the content) and therefore the free aggregation services also require a licence. However, the NLA appears to be shying away from taking on Google at the moment.

As you may be aware, the appeal to the Supreme Court has still to be heard as to whether simply browsing the internet can be a copyright infringement – this is in relation to a finding made by the High Court last year.

We’ll keep you posted.

Leigh Kirktpatrick

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