In a decision laced with a surprising amount of common sense, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that internet users don’t break copyright law when browsing the web [see note]! This is the result of a four year battle, where the Newspaper Licencing Authority wanted to demand that some users pay a licence to be able to browse the open websites of UK-based newspapers.

Perhaps the legal battle shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. It’s long been the case that accessing some illicit material on the internet will land you in court with a charge of making a copy of the content, and the NLA does have a reputation of coming up with “creative” ways to try to increase its revenue. But it’s clear that any decision other than this one would have had ramifications that would make the controversial “right to be forgotten” appear to be a minor issue.

The PRCA deserves huge credit for their work in getting this judgement. They’ve invested a huge amount of time and money to help agencies and clients avoid the need to have to pay for a licence to simply browse the newspaper sites that are covering them. Whilst it would seem obvious that there was no alternative but for the court to rule in this way, the reality is that to get to this point took a huge amount of time and money and the PRCA should be applauded for their tenacity and success.


Note: we’d love to route you to the Guardian story about this decision, but the lovely people at the NLA have said that they want to charge us to do it. So we’ve had to take the link away (and the traffic that would increase the Guardian’s revenue has gone too).