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...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jun 5th, 2014 @ 12:54pm

    Question:

    Is that it as far as the EU goes on this subject, or is it still possible for them to try again with a higher court somewhere and potentially get this overturned?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Jun 5th, 2014 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Question:

    Answer - there is no higher court.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jun 5th, 2014 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Re: Question:

    Excellent, glad this one came out on the side of sanity then, thanks for answering that for me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jun 5th, 2014 @ 1:45pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2014 @ 1:48pm

    Does this mean that viewing online streaming is not infringement if what is being viewed is copyright?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 5th, 2014 @ 2:02pm

    Re:

    No, it means that "transient and temporary" copies that are "incidental" to legal activities are not in violation. Intentionally watching a pirate stream wouldn't fall into that category.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    ethorad (profile), Jun 5th, 2014 @ 2:04pm

    Blizzard take note

    As an EU resident, does that mean I can get back to cheating at StarCraft and World of Warcraft? ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    zip, Jun 5th, 2014 @ 2:40pm

    "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 .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 5th, 2014 @ 3:27pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    avideogameplayer, Jun 5th, 2014 @ 5:15pm

    Re: Re:

    So basically the EU is in the same boat in the sense that NO ONE can tell what is 'authorized' and what isn't...

    This oughtta be fun to watch...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    KevinEHayden (profile), Jun 5th, 2014 @ 8:16pm

    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!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2014 @ 10:40pm

    Re: Blizzard take note

    No???

    Were we reading the same article?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Daemon_ZOGG, Jun 5th, 2014 @ 11:30pm

    "Just Viewing Stuff Online Isn't Infringing On Copyright"

    I wouldn't have cared either way. I still would have done it anywayz. Regardless, if it was legal or not. Those guyz at the NLA are certifiable fruitcakes from the looks of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    A. Lauridsen, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 1:57am

    Re: Just wait!

    @KevinEHayden

    There are some very fundamental legal differences between the EU and the US. Frequently you'll see these two legal systems at odds with one another.

    Forcing global service providers into a situation where they have to choose between breaking EU law or US law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 2:27am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Duke (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 4:27am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    The Wanderer (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 5:12am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    A. Lauridsen, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 5:16am

    Re: 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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    ethorad (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 7:08am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    A. Lauridsen, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 7:57am

    @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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Jun 7th, 2014 @ 10:16pm

    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!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Jun 7th, 2014 @ 10:20pm

    Re:

    The copy doesn't have be both transient and incidental, just one or the other, so b would certainly apply. As for d, exactly what economic gains do people seek to make when they wish to make their games easier to play?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.