Viewing Cached Copyrighted Content Isn’t Infringing, UK Supreme Court Says

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By Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch

Internet users who merely read or view copyright-protected webpages enjoy a temporary copying exception under European Union and United Kingdom law and do not need permission from rights holders, the UK Supreme Court said in a 17 April ruling.

The case, Public Relations Consultants Association Limited [PRCA] v. The Newspaper Licensing Agency Limited and others, “raises an important question about the application of copyright law to the technical processes involved in viewing copyright materials on the internet,” the court said: Whether looking at a cached copy of protected content, without downloading or printing it, amounts to infringement. Lower courts held that it does, a finding unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court.

However, acknowledging that the “issue has a transnational dimension and that the application of copyright law to internet use has important implications for many millions of people across the EU making use of what has become a basic technical facility,” the court decided to ask the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling “so that “this critical point may be resolved in a manner which will apply uniformly across the European Union.”

The Supreme Court judgment “is absolutely right in ensuring that acts of end users which were perfectly lawful in the analogue world remain lawful in the digital world,” said Baker & McKenzie London Head of Intellectual Property Michael Hart, who represented the PRCA. “Any other decision would have severely restricted perfectly reasonable consumer Internet use,” he said in a press release.

The decision is available here [pdf].


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