Internet users have the right to browse online without infringing copyright law, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court has today ruled that internet users have the right to browse online without infringing copyright law, and has sent the case on to the European Court to ‘clarify’ the point.

The PRCA contested a decision, made at the Court of Appeals, that the temporary copies made through the purely technological process of displaying a web page on a computer to enable a user to read that web page is a violation of UK copyright law if made without the explicit consent of the copyright owner.

The Court ruled in favour of the PRCA in its argument against the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) that browsing and viewing articles online does not require authorisation from the rights-holder.

The Supreme Court states that accepting the NLA’s position would be “an unacceptable result, which would make infringers of many millions of ordinary users of the internet across the EU who use browsers and search engines for private as well as commercial purposes."

Francis Ingham, PRCA director general, said: “We are delighted that the UK Supreme Court has accepted all of our arguments, which we look forward to making again at the CJEU. The Supreme Court understood that this does not just affect the PR world, but the fundamental rights of all EU citizens to browse the internet.”

Jorn Lyssegen, CEO of Meltwater, added: “We are very pleased that the Supreme Court overruled the previous rulings of the Court of Appeals and The High Court that the simple act of browsing the Internet could be copyright infringement.

"This ruling is an important step in modernizing the interpretation of UK copyright law and protects UK Internet users from overreaching copyright collectors.”

The CJEU ruling is expected next year.

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