PR Chief: ‘Copyright Law Just Doesn’t Work In An Internet Age’

The PR industry chief whose members must pay a license for “copying” online newspaper articles says his appeal loss shows UK copyright law to be incompatible with digital media. But he is confident of overturning the verdict.

It just doesn’t fit with modern society,” Public Relations Consultants Association CEO Francis Ingham told paidContent, after the UK Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that users must pay a license for receiving story “copied” extracts from commercial news aggregators.

“Any reasonable person would think this is about 20 years out of date. Copyright law as it stands just doesn’t work in an internet age. It’s far wider than just the PR or newspaper or media monitoring industry. It’s about the fundamentals of how the internet works. It just doesn’t fit with modern society.”

The PRCA says millions of internet users will have to pay for being sent processed links through services their companies pay for, but claims victory on one point – the appeal judge’s observation that no cases have yet shown anyone to breach the copyright in a headline. The PRCA will partially appeal the appeal court’s ruling to the Supreme Court and will get a second bite in a Copyright Tribunal hearing beginning September.

We go in to the tribunal in good shape on the back of this ruling. It’s a significant improvement on what the High Court said,” Ingham says. “I’m confident that this will be overturned by the tribunal, which will, after all, be composed of experts in the area.”

CEO Jørn Lyssegen of the Meltwater News monitor, which had argued the original case with PRCA, tells paidContent: “We are stronger now than after the High Court ruling.

“Lots of voices out there say the the current copyright regime is stifling innovation here in the UK. It is unreasonable that the NLA requested our clients have an additional license… that our clients need to pay to read articles they can find online for themselves.

“It’s the digital equivalent of reading a book. The ruling says that’s copyright infringement.”