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The Newspaper Licensing Agency challenged Meltwater's aggregating. (Credit: NLA, screenshot)

A July UK Appeals Court ruling has ordered both a news aggregator and its users to pay a licensing fee to the UK Newspaper Licensing Agency or else potentially face copyright infringement action, according to the Independent.

The court’s findings upheld a November court ruling. However, the Appeals Court did overturn a ruling that headlines were copyrighted.

According to the Register, in November the High Court found that Meltwater needs to have a license and ruled that news headlines were copyrighted.

The Public Relations Consultants Association appealed on Meltwater’s behalf.  Opposing Meltwater is “all the UK’s major newspaper groups except News International, alongside the Newspaper Licensing Agency.”

The July appeal ruling “overturned the initial ruling that newspaper headlines could be covered by copyright,” V3 reported.  As a result, Meltwater, and other aggregators, likely won’t be violating copyright in re-publishing headlines.

“Commercial operations” of “headline aggregators” must get a license costing between £58 to £500 annually, the Register reported.  So, as Journalism.co.uk explained, Meltwater will have to get a Newspaper Licensing Authority license in order to “avoid infringing copyright.”

While Meltwater’s CEO Jorn Lyseggen reportedly comment that Meltwater has no problem with getting a license, “the core issue is whether our clients need an additional license.”  He is quoted as saying:

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” We don’t think our clients should have to pay for news articles pointed to by Meltwater. These are articles that are freely available that they can find on their own. To us it is absurd.”

TechDirt criticized the ruling, calling it “ridiculous” and “clueless” and described Meltwater as “your classic news aggregator,” posting headlines, “brief snippets of the articles,” and links.  TechDirt noted that U.S. copyright usually doesn’t extend to headlines.

According to TechDirt, which disclosed that Meltwater “tried to get us as a customer two years ago,” Meltwater’s “sample reports” provide users with just a headline, a timestamp and a sentence or two.

In an interview with EConsultancy,  NLA stated that it wants “both Meltwater and their clients to license content” because “publishers are entitled to charge a fee in respect of each of these copies.”

The NLA argued that “commercial entities who make a living out of distributing content which newspapers have created and invested in…should pay a fair price for doing so.”

The head of the PRCA told EConsultancy in an interview that the ruling is “absurd.” Meltwater told EConsultancy in an interview that despite existing in 27 countries, the only place where Meltwater has had “problems like this” has been in the UK.

See the ruling here.

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UK Court: Headline Aggregator & Its Users Could be Violating Copyright?

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