UK Politicians Don't Seem To Mind That Every Web Page You Load Is Copyright Infringement Under Current Law

from the you're-breaking-the-law-while-reading-this dept

Last year Techdirt wrote about the almost unbelievable Meltwater decision in the UK, where the courts said that viewing a Web page without the owner's permission was copyright infringement. In November last year, leave was granted to Meltwater to make an appeal against the ruling to the UK's Supreme Court. However, that still leaves the inconvenient matter of the infringement by tens of millions of UK Web users hundreds of times every day in the meantime.

To rectify this ridiculous situation, the British MP Fiona O'Donnell has proposed some simple amendments to UK copyright law, as this post on Out-Law.com explains:

The act of downloading data required to view that copyright material "and any subsequent processing of that data, including processing for display, provided that it does not result in any publication elsewhere of the work or an adaptation of the work" should also be explicitly permissible, O'Donnell's draft amendment had proposed.
Given its frequent exhortations to the public not to infringe on copyright in any way, you would have thought the UK government would have rushed this amendment through in order to legalize what are, after all, absolutely indispensable actions when using the Web. But no:
Last week Business Minister Norman Lamb said the Government would not draft new copyright laws to make the act of website browsing explicitly legitimate and not in breach of copyright until the courts had ruled on the issue.
Since the Supreme Court is not expected to rule on this until the beginning of next year, that means another six months of blanket infringement for UK users of the Web. When even the British government seems not to care about the letter of copyright law, which is hard enough to understand at the best of times, how are ordinary citizens supposed to know what is legal or illegal as they go about their daily lives online?

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  •  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 10:14am

    Eighteenth century laws, please meet the Internet.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 10:15am

    This is just great news, it just shows how so out of touch IP law really is.

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 10:32am

    That was last year and I STILL can't get my head around the idea that viewing a web page without permission is considered infringement. Surely the very act of putting the page online is implied permission for the public to view it? I'm still confused.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 10:41am

      Re: {smirk}

      (with a mega-phone)
      "YOU, citizen! Do not look at this sign! This sign, right here, the one I'm pointing to; do NOT look at it. You are not allowed" (repeat, ad nauseaum)

       

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      Duke (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:07am

      Re:

      This was discussed in the case, but only briefly. Yes, there can be "implied licences" such as when you publish something on the Internet, however they can be defeated by express licences.

      In the case itself, this issue didn't really arise as all the newspapers involved apparently had some sort of express statement in their T&Cs that the content could be copied etc. but only for personal use. Meltwater was doing something that wasn't personal use, so there wasn't really an issue with this.

      However, back in the rest of the Internet, it comes down to what is enough to count as an express licence. For example, many websites have something along the lines of " All Rights Reserved" on them. That could be enough to override an implied licence. So if you're in England or Wales, are browsing the Internet and see something like that, there is a good chance that you're breaking the law.

      Practically, of course, no one cares. Just another example of the law being completely out of step with reality when it comes to copyright or the Internet.

       

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        Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:18am

        Re: Re:

        And, of course, you can't see the express permission until you view the page so you have already infringed.

        These laws need serious updating.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 12:48pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well I am gonna spend a few grand on ads that will link to a page that just says "by coming here you violated my copyright. Your ip has been logged we will send you a demand for 5K before we sue you, have a great weekend."

           

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          Bergman (profile), Aug 5th, 2012 @ 11:20pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          If an express permission is granted on the internet and nobody views the page, does a lawyer make a sound?

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 1:38pm

      Re:

      "Surely the very act of putting the page online is implied permission for the public to view it?"

      Not sure about the UK, but in the U.S. that would be true in most cases.

       

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    Titania Bonham-Smythe (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 10:47am

    The law is an ass.

     

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    fogbugzd (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 10:51am

    Is it also illegal to look at billboards without permission?

     

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    Jason, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 10:56am

    And now for something completely different

    "In other news, this would be the link that links to the article that includes an image of several links that might infringe upon our own copyright, but since we're still waiting for word from Sony and EMI on whether we can report this, here's Tim with today's sports reenactments."

     

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    Dewey Cheetum and Howstein, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:02am

    DO NOT READ THIS POST! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

    OK, now, you have infringed our copyright.

    You are being sued for a kazillion dollars!

    Who says you can't profit off the internet? It's the world's greatest financial rape medium!

    Hell has arrived at last. Total impunity and the Farce of Law on our side (the side of evil). We can't lose. I mean whose gonna prosecute us rich rapists?

    No-fucking-body, that's who.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:03am

    the main reason the UK government are waiting to make a decision is they haven't got a fucking clue what they are talking about or what they are doing! some equally brainless idiot has said that the Internet has to be blocked completely because if not people will be finding out all sorts of information, some of it being detrimental to the government and that must be stopped at all costs. at the same time stop any downloads of infringing material, whatever that might be

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      some equally brainless idiot has said that the Internet has to be blocked completely because if not people will be finding out all sorts of information, some of it being detrimental to the government

      The UK should just take the old Soviet Union/KGB propaganda/freedom-suppression/killing tactic that the United States is busily perfecting and destroy those who would dare release information on government incompetence. Has being up the US's waste-pipe all these years taught them nothing?

       

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      Duke (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 12:54pm

      Re:

      It's also worth noting that no one cares about this. Even copyright lawyers and commentators generally recognise that the original ruling had no practical effects, and none of the big lobby groups are that interested. As for the government - why would they want to waste time on the Internet; they're not going to win any votes by changing a law that no one follows anyway? The original ruling was back in 2010 and the Supreme Court won't be hearing it until late 2012 or early 2013 - the law can wait.

      Contrast this with the situation that developed last year with police bail conditions, when a court ruled that the police were breaking the law by holding people on indefinite bail without charge, the case was fast-tracked to the Supreme Court (within a couple of months) but the Government (under pressure from the police lobby groups) rushed through a new law in a week, completely undercutting the work of the courts.

       

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    Ninja (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:06am

    Well, why don't they extradite all their ci9tizens to the US along with Richard then?

    Reminds me of the Olympics opening and the amazing irony it was.

     

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      Tunnen (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:10am

      Re:

      Actually, maybe the UK should try to extradite every US citizen with Internet access to the UK for copyright infringement.

      I bet the US would have a different view on this extradition process when the tables are turned.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:21am

        Re: Re:

        I bet the US would have a different view on this extradition process when the tables are turned.

        No it wouldn't. They've got the majority of the bombs and guns and they make war (which they usually lose) at the drop of a hat. It gives them a false sense of security, similar to what the ancient Roman empire had just before it fell apart.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 12:50pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Usually lose?

           

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            Tunnen (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Hmmm,

            War of 1812 - More of a draw than a loss, but Washington was still razed.
            WW2 (Europe) - Possible claim that joining in the end game doesn't actually equate to a victory.
            Korea - Didn't go to well, still ended in a draw.
            Vietnam - Loss
            War on Drugs - Not going that well.
            War on Piracy - Ditto.
            War on Terrorism - Still not much to write home about.

            But still in the overall scheme of things, the American's have won more conflicts then they lost.... But being in a large number of conflicts to begin with isn't much of a bragging point either.

             

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              Niall (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 5:09am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Your WW2 is more accurate for WW1. You weren't nearly as late joining WW2, so you were actually able to help more. Even if it took Germany stupidly declaring war on you, or you'd have only bothered with the Pacific theatre...

               

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    gorehound (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:09am

    Everyone in the UK is now a Criminal !
    You will all be put in forced labor camps.
    The Internet is Dead ! Long live the Underweb.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:12am

    "including processing for display, provided that it does not result in any publication elsewhere of the work or an adaptation of the work"

    Google preview to be attacked?

     

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    Chilly8, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:26am

    UK law is odd. I run an online radio station, about 6 years ago, I used some stats from Figure Skating Universe, which is in Britain, when reporting the results of a competition, and they banned me from the site, claiming copyright infringement. I can see now where they got their crazy idea that using their stats in my report was copyright infringement, that crazy British copyright law you just reported on in the article.

     

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    johnny canada, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Dear Permission Culture: This Is Why No One Wants To Ask For Your OK

     

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    Duke (profile), Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Not just visiting websites

    The other fun part of the original case was where the Judge found that *receiving* an email involved an act of copying. So... if someone sends you an email with something covered by copyright (such as a picture of a kitten with an amusing caption, or merely some forwarded text), simply by opening the email you may be breaking the law (if you're in England or Wales).

     

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      Vic, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 2:42pm

      Re: Not just visiting websites

      I believe you do not even have to open that email. You have already received it, it's in your Inbox! Who cares if you actually read it or not. You can always set the status to "Unread". No-no-no! You're guilty as soon as it shows in your Inbox!

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Isn't one of the steps in "Maintaining a police state" to make srue that ALL your citicizens "could be" considered criminals?

    UK ... continuing the police state thinking

    The US has to have 'someone' to emulate after all (it's not like we can come up with ideas on our own, all your base are belong to US...)

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 11:50am

    OMG!! You know what this means?!!!!

    I AM THE BEST FUCKING PIRATE EVER!

    I surf so much!! I bet I've caused trillions of dollars in damages due to lost sales!!

    Saddam ain't got shit on me I've damaged the world in amounts more than our planet is worth. I'm a fucking superstar!

    Sigh :( I was gonna say FML but I don't have one.

     

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    anon, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 12:19pm

    Calling all ISP's

    What you are doing is illegal, you need to block all access to the internet immediately, until the courts can sort this out, no quick fixes all access must be stopped immediately.

     

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    Jasmine Charter, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 12:26pm

    What every government wants...

    Of course they're not in a hurry... they have what every government wants... a reason to arrest anyone they want.

    Why change a law that makes everyone a criminal? That's an oppressive government's wet dream!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 4:22pm

      Re: What every government wants...

      This is precisely true. When a state criminalises all its citizens, it is then free to pick and choose who to arrest and prosecute on the basis of its own whims, and it is no longer a country ruled by law, but instead is ruled by the whims of people empowered with govermental/state authority.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 12:39pm

    How come no one has sent out pay-or-get-sued letters to the entire populace of the UK.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 1:38pm

    It is similar under U.S. copyright law, where downloading a web page counts a copying, and therefore may be copyright infringement if done without permission.

    However, in nearly all cases, there would be an implied license to engage in such copying. The rub is when websites have explicit terms and conditions limiting use of their sites to certain purposes (e.g., noncommercial, noncompetetive, etc.).

     

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    Mwhahaha, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 2:39pm

    I missed this the first time around. Fantastic.

    However the UK has some arcane laws going back centuries, a lot of the older ones broken by many people all the time. I'd have to know where the initial ruling came from. But I'll plough on regardless...

    So... why aren't we all arrested?

    Because the police aren't petty little pedants (contrary to most people's views!) and understand that commonsense has to prevail.

    It's only lawyers (and possibly online journalists) who don't have enough to do, so expect the letter of the law to be upheld and then cry foul when it isn't.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2012 @ 8:43pm

    No Glyn, once again, you get the basics wrong.

    It's not a copyright violation to download a webpage, because the website owner gives you that permission. As the rights holder, they have that right to grant anyone access.

    It would only be a real issue if the website said "copyright and you may not access it in any way".

    Copyright doesn't automatically mean locked up. You need to learn that basic idea.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 3:12am

      Re:

      Sure. Fiona Lamb just drafted alterations to existing copyright laws, and the business minister made a statement that they needed to wait for a legal ruling on the matter to draft the necessary new laws because Glynn made a mistake.

      Either that or you're fucking illiterate. One of the two.

       

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    Christopher (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 12:21am

    Simple, to answer the last question: We just ignore the laws.

    That is all we do and if anyone tries coming after us, we hit back HARD and get the law thrown out then. It shouldn't come to that, but too often considering how freaking lazy our politicians in the world today are, it does.

     

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    Luna (profile), Aug 5th, 2012 @ 7:16am

    Out of curiosity, is Ireland caught in this world wide web of stupidity as well? If that's the case, then my vacation plans are fucked...

     

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