You Can’t Break Copyright By Looking At Something Online, Europe’s Top Court Rules

It may seem obvious, but it’s a ruling that puts to rest a genuine debate in Europe over the limits of copyright law.

by Gigaom | June 5, 2014

Internet users who look at copyrighted material online aren’t breaking copyright by doing so, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) declared on Thursday.

Before you splutter “Well duh” at your screen, note that this judgement finally ends a very long-running and somewhat stupid legal debate over rights relating to online newspaper clippings. This is a useful ruling that will apply across the EU, much to the chagrin of certain publishers.

Meltwater redux

All this relates to the British Meltwater case. Meltwater is a Norway-founded media monitoring service that sent out daily digests including the headlines and “ledes” – the first bit of the article — of the newspaper stories, together with links to the full online articles. It did not pay for these snippets. The company found itself sued in both the U.S. and the U.K., with the suits covering the same basic activity but diverging significantly in what happened next.

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