Interviews: Meltwater Appeals UK Web News Fees As Both Sides Claim Victory

The Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) and Meltwater put their own contrasting spins on Tuesday’s setting by the UK’s Copyright Tribunal of the fees Meltwater’s news monitor clients must pay newspaper websites to receive its story summaries.

Meltwater CEO Jorn Lyssegen told paidContent the tribunal’s reduction of some of the rates proposed by the NLA will save UK businesses £100 million in the next two years, and will save Meltwater clients £24 million – lofty claims backed which were not fully explained but which are backed by the Public Relations Consultants Association, which had supported Meltwater.

NLA commercial director Andrew Hughes professed: “We’re delighted, we’ve got what we wanted.”

Before the rates were reduced on Tuesday, the NLA had said the new web fees would net just over £1 million a year for its members (national newspaper websites), based on 2010/11 fees. Hughes told paidContent on Tuesday that annual amount would continue to rise regardless of the 2012 fee being reduced because use of its service would grow.

The NLA and Meltwater will now have to determine how to retrospectively collect from public relations practitioners the 2010/11 fees, which the NLA had suspended pending the Copyright Tribunal’s conclusion. The NLA’s own online cuttings service, eClips, now has “several thousand” users, Hughes said, adding that official licensing direct from publishers through eClips is more reliable than alternative methods like free Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Alerts because eClipts includes paywalled content – something Hughes sees becoming more prevalent.

Regardless of the fees, Lyssegen revealed Meltwater has appealed a part of both last year’s High Court and Court Of Appeal rulings, which allowed the NLA to charge fees, to the UK Supreme Court.

That part is the judges’ assertion that even Meltwater end users who receive article summaries and links on their computer have effectively “copied” articles – “the notion that browsing content itself may be copyright infringement”, as Lyssegen puts it.

“The UK internet has become increasingly hostile. UK copyright law badly needs an upgrade.” Lyssegen is still trying to broaden out this determination on “temporary copies” as though it would criminalise millions of ordinary internet users.