Following legal proceedings brought by the PRCA and Meltwater Group, the Newspaper Licensing Agency has been forced to lower its proposed fee increases by the Copyright Tribunal.
The tribunal, which contested the use of online news and the ability to share it freely, upheld seven of nine changes requested by the PRCA and Meltwater to the web end user licence fee that they hope will save companies in the UK over £100m over the coming three years.
The NLA had also called for anyone using Google News or Google Alerts at work to apply for a licence to do so, which prompted concern about the freedom of the internet by both appealing groups.
Francis Ingham, chief executive of the PRCA, said "Both Meltwater and the PRCA have invested huge resources ensuring the PR industry and other Internet users are not subject to unreasonable costs. The savings we have achieved for the industry highlight how important it was that we stood up to this scheme when others just accepted it. This is a huge win for Meltwater, the PRCA and its members. We have won the battle. We must now continue to fight to protect the broader principles of the Internet."
"The mandate the NLA has been given is against the ethos of the Internet and sets UK Copyright Law in a head on collision course with every day Internet users. We share their concern and will now step up our campaign to make UK copyright law fit for a digital age,” added Ingham.
Jorn Lyseggen, CEO of Meltwater, added: "The ability to browse the Internet without fear of infringing copyright has always been a fundamental Internet principle. Society is not served by these rulings in the UK and it seems that this interpretation of the law fundamentally clashes with how millions of people use the Internet every day. Meltwater is a strong believer in copyright and a strong supporter of a sustainable, independent press. However, the UK needs a copyright law that allow its citizens to use the Internet without fear of unintentional infringement."
David Pugh, managing director of the NLA welcomed the decision following two court cases on the legality of licensing.
“We are pleased that the Copyright Tribunal has upheld the principle and structure of our online licensing scheme, and confirmed that Meltwater is subject to the same requirements as Media Monitoring Organisations,” commented Pugh.
“The judgment provides a measured, equitable regime that will ensure stability for both publishers and end-users alike: our customers will benefit from a transparent licensing structure and newspapers can be sure of a fair reward for their content.
“We think that all concerned will welcome the certainty that the Tribunal has provided, and we look forward to working with the newspapers, MMOs and our customers to implement the licence as quickly and as smoothly as possible.”
Simon Clark, head of Intellectual Property at Berwin Leighton Paisner, which represented the NLA and the newspapers, added: "This is an interim decision - the parties now have two months in which to try to agree a few outstanding issues, after which the Tribunal will issue its final decision setting out the exact wording of the two online licences."