EU Court Of Justice: Just Viewing Stuff Online Isn't Infringing On Copyright

from the about-time dept

It’s kind of ridiculous that it’s taken this long, but the EU Court of Justice has now made it clear that viewing stuff that is legally on the internet is not copyright infringement. We had written about this case a few months back, as an offshoot of the various cases against clipping service/aggregator Meltwater. This specific dispute involves the Newspaper Licensing Agency’s (NLA) continuing argument with the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), and NLA’s absolutely insane assertion that on-screen and cached copies of articles online was copyright infringement unless there was a license. As we noted last year, the UK Supreme Court agreed that this was nutty, but asked the EU Court of Justice to weigh in to be sure.

And, thankfully, on this one the EUCJ got it right, saying that on-screen and cached copies don’t require a special license:

Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the copies on the user’s computer screen and the copies in the internet ‘cache’ of that computer’s hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website, satisfy the conditions that those copies must be temporary, that they must be transient or incidental in nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process, as well as the conditions laid down in Article 5(5) of that directive, and that they may therefore be made without the authorisation of the copyright holders.

This is kind of important, because if the ruling had gone the other way, basically all of the internet would be infringing, and any time people loaded up anything in their web browsers, they’d likely be infringing. Kudos to the EUCJ for getting it right, but it’s kind of crazy that we had to wait until now to make that clear…

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Companies: meltwater, nla, prca

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Comments on “EU Court Of Justice: Just Viewing Stuff Online Isn't Infringing On Copyright”

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22 Comments
Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Question:

Now we watch as the US decides in a 5-4 case that infringement is liable for punishment as only Breyer understands how it works and Ginsberg decides to speak nonsense…

Meanwhile, we have the RIAA parrot the case in how entitled they feel while making record profits for 60 people.

The MPAA will continue to try to lock up every infringer in the world while having no legal services themselves.

And the public decides to grab some pitchforks, take to twitter and make a hashtag to #Stopinfringement which probably will get more trolls from 4chan than it will actual people paying attention.

ethorad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Blizzard take note

This article says that transient copies of web pages made by a computer may be made without the express authorisation of the copyright holder.

Blizzard is currently suing some StarCraft cheat writers (and historically sued some World of WarCraft cheat writers) by claiming copyright infringement. Essentially in order to run the game (or any program), the computer makes a copy of the program in memory. Blizzard argues that the permission to make that copy goes along with your adherence to the Terms of Service. The moment that you breach the ToS (by, for example, installing a cheat program), you no longer have their permission to create a temporary copy of their product in the computer’s memory. So the moment that you run the game with the cheat live, you are making an infringing copy and thus guilty of copyright infringement. (See the links in my post above for the Techdirt stories about this).

Essentially the EU is now ruling that transient copies of web pages can’t be found to be infringing copyright. The extension would be that transient copies of anything, which are an integral part of the technological process, aren’t copyright infringement.

Therefore, Blizzard would lose the ability to use their currently preferred line of attack in Europe.

zip says:

“made it clear that viewing stuff that is legally on the internet is not copyright infringement.”

Don’t you mean illegally?

That’s good news for Europe, but it’s too bad that, due to a recent law, unauthorized internet content is illegal to receive in Japan — a country with a [comparatively] permissive child-porn culture .

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think he meant “legally”. There was a lot of argument a little while back in the US where copyright holders were arguing that things like your web cache were violating copyright law even when viewing things that you were legally entitled to view (because your cache is making an unauthorized copy). This appears to be the same issue, jsut in the EU instead of the US.

KevinEHayden (profile) says:

Just wait!

Well that’s great for now, but I suspect we’ll soon get an opposite ruling from some dumb-ass US judge. If you’ll all recall, APIs were declared uncopyrightable by a German court last year, and it didn’t take long for some idiot judge in the US to rule the opposite in the Oracle vs. Google trial.
Let’s all just sit back and enjoy the fireworks!

Lawrence D?Oliveiro says:

The Trouble With This Decision Is...

…it draws a distinction between downloading onto your PC in a cache area, as opposed to some other area of your hard drive/persistent storage.

In other words, what you do with your own personal property in the privacy of your own home can or cannot be copyright infringement, depending entirely on which part of that personal property of yours you are using.

Duke (profile) says:

Re: The Trouble With This Decision Is...

It doesn’t care about technology, it cares about intention and effect.

Technologically there is little difference between downloading to a cache and downloading to another part of a drive for long-term storage.

But in terms of intention and effect it is pretty clear there is; the former has a “transient” quality, the latter has a degree of permanence. The former is incidental to viewing things, the latter is a deliberate act to make a copy for later.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Trouble With This Decision Is...

AFAICT, this is similar to the distinction in the US Code (I don’t have the citation handy, but I have seen it myself) for “copies necessary for use” – e.g., running a program from disk involves copying it into RAM, but that doesn’t count as a copy for purposes of requiring authorization under US copyright law.

A. Lauridsen says:

The Trouble With This Decision Is...

The ruling is based on Directive 2001/29/EC ‘on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society’

The directive has certain exceptions for when copyright not. Specifically Article 5.1, permits temporary reproduction. The ruling states: Google translation:

According to Article 5. 1 of Directive 2001/29 is an act of reproduction exempted from the reproduction right provided for in its Article 2 that:

– That it is temporary,

– It is transient or incidental,

– That it is an integral and essential part of a technological process

– That its sole purpose is to enable an intermediary transmission in a network between third men or a lawful use of a work or other subject matter, and

– It has no independent economic significance.

It then goes on to explain that web-browser caches are a requirement for the browser implementation. And consequently storing copyrighted material in a temporary cache manged by the browser is in accordance with article 5.1

A. Lauridsen says:

@ethorad

I don’t know the specifics of the technology behind StarCraft and WarCraft.

You need to consider that a requirement is that:
a) That it is temporary,
b) It is transient or incidental,
c) That its sole purpose is to enable an intermediary transmission in a network between third men or a lawful use of a work or other subject matter, and
d) It has no independent economic significance.

I’d think that b and d would not apply to these games

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the copies on the user?s computer screen and the copies in the internet ?cache? of that computer?s hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website, satisfy the conditions that those copies must be temporary, that they must be transient or incidental in nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process, as well as the conditions laid down in Article 5(5) of that directive, and that they may therefore be made without the authorisation of the copyright holders.
Well, duh. How do you think I’ve been reading 1984 and Animal Farm for free ever since I first gained an online presence? Article 5 of the Copyright Directive and Public Domain copies of the works hosted on Australian servers!

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