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In this action the claimants (a number of newspaper publishers and the NLA, a company that managed some of their intellectual property rights) sought a declaration that the defendants (the Meltwater media monitoring service and the Public Relations Consultants Association Limited -- PRCA --a professional association representing public relations providers) each needed a copyright licence in order lawfully to produce and/or use copies of the claimants' newspaper content. The media monitoring service consisted of the supply of reports which included the headline, opening text and an extract from articles which matched search terms selected by the customer. Whether these reports were sent by email to the PRCA or downloaded from Meltwater's website, they inevitably ended up being copied into the memory of PRCA's computer.
In these proceedings the judge was asked to rule on the following issues:
(i) is a newspaper headline capable of being a free-standing original literary work?Mrs Justice Proudman first identified the relevant principle of law, this being the test laid out by the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case C-5/08 Infopaq International A/S v Danske Dagblades Forening: no distinction should be be made between part of an article and the whole, provided that the part contained elements which were the expression of the author's intellectual creation. The Information Society Directive (2001/29), which governed the extraction of works, did not itself make reference to the need for the extraction to be of a "substantial part" of the copied work. Rather, the Directive (as Infopaq explained) made it clear that originality -- not substantiality -- was the test to be applied to the part extracted. On this basis the judge attacked the questions before them and answered them as follows:
(ii) is the text extract constituted a "substantial part" of the article as a literary work?
(iii) do the PRCA and its members need a web end-user licence from the NLA or its members in order to lawfully use and receive Meltwater's service?
(i) On evidence from the newspaper publishers that the creation of headlines involved considerable skill, some headlines were indeed capable of being independent literary works. However, even those that were not independent legal works still formed part of the articles to which they related.The IPKat says, this ruling is an inevitable consequence of the fact that copyright infringement is broken down into so many restricted acts which can constitute infringement even if they closely follow the performance of a permitted act by a licensed person -- but that is in the nature of the right itself. And while he can see that customers may feel peeved that they need a licence even to have their own copy of extracts which are made under licence themselves and which they've paid for, he can also see why newspaper proprietors are desperate to turn opportunities such as this into a sort of 'last chance saloon' for coaxing a little more income out of a news provision service that is increasingly harder to finance and run profitably. Merpel says, I bet within a few years the availability of increasingly improved search engines and better techniques for harnessing them will lead many current customers of media monitoring services to do their owb self-monitoring.
(ii) As to whether the text extracts constituted a substantial part of the articles, what is decisive is the quality of the extracted part and the level of the author's skill and labour which the copier has appropriated, not the amount extracted. In Infopaq the Court of Justice found that copying an extract of 11 consecutive words from an article would be partial reproduction in part for the purposes of Article 2 of the InfoSoc Directive -- so long as those words had the necessary quality of originality. This does not require the court to conduct some sort of assessment of whether the extract is novel or artistically worthwhile on its own, since that would be treating the extract as if it was itself a literary work. In these proceedings, many of the text extracts did contain elements that could be said to be the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of the article as a whole, and which thus infringed.
(ii) Since customers of the media monitoring service made copies of the headline and text extract when viewing or accessing Meltwater's report, there was a prima facie copyright infringement. There were no fair dealing or other defences either, since the sole reason why the extracts were copied was to see if the news items were of any further use or not.
Neat analysis on the 1709 Blog here
Press Gazette report here
Appeal to Court of Appeal under consideration here
How cats drink water here