Reading this? You might be in breach of copyright

From Meltwater:

Browsing is the digital equivalent of reading. When you consume the content of a book, you read it. When you consume content online, you browse it.

The wide ramifications of the ruling by the Court of Appeal two days ago on July 27th in the case NLA v Meltwater & PRCA is that the temporary digital copies a browser creates when opening a website will be a breach of copyright unless a license is granted by the rights holder.

The ruling does address a lot of other copyright related issues specifically to the dispute between NLA and Meltwater & PRCA as well, but for the broader audience this aspect of the ruling is the most interesting to fully understand.

This is a classic case of turning people into offenders without informing them they’re now criminal. And you’ve all seen the results of music copyright slegehammer jobs on people. The finer detail:

The significance of this ruling is that if you live in the UK, every time you click on an internet link you must have a license for every page you open. This is the case for every link you follow on the internet, any link people send to you by email, or any link you find on Twitter or Facebook.

This ruling is strikingly different from general practice that consider temporary digital copies from browsing as transient copies facilitating the transmission of a work and therefore part of the explicit exception in the Copyright law.

This stinks, it truly does. You might point out and you’d be right, that the thing is so unworkable, so ridiculous that most net users wouldn’t have to worry.

I agree – if they’re being good boys and girls. But we at Orphans are not necessarily being good boys and girls and we have sometimes bitten the beast and made ourselves unwelcome. These are the people who, now criminalized, they can reel in whenever they care to.

Of all the things currently happening in this country politically, this is one of the most insidious. This was how the USSR did it – there were so many laws, many clashing with each other, that it was impossible to be legal. As long as you behaved yourself, you were left alone.

Stir it up a little – you’d be charged under Section Whatever, Sub-Section 4 and that was you gone. We in the UK are halfway to that stage now.

I believe, given ordinary people’s usage of the net and the workings of the usual browser, that to criminalize people over what their browser does is beyond wrong. It’s yet another example of how they intend to snuff out dissenting opinion and Orphans would be one of the targets, after they’ve dealt with Guido and the like.

In many discussions over this with people, I’ve been told again and again that it’s just a scare tactic.  Yes, that’s so but as you and I well know, it’s also a Sword of Damocles, a suspended sentence.

An indirect means of control.

[H/T Chuckles]

17 comments for “Reading this? You might be in breach of copyright

  1. August 4, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Only halfway to that stage? 😉 If it helps I’ll grant a permanent licence for my little corner of the web excluding one randomly chosen word which I shall change daily. Today’s word is aphonia, the state of being voiceless. I don’t think I’ve ever actually used it but be sure not to read it if I have.

    On the plus side at least you can rip all those CDs to iTunes now. Yes, probably everyone who was going to did it several years ago but now it’s allowed.

    • August 5, 2011 at 5:49 am

      A clear case of a bad law bringing every other copyright law into disrepute?

  2. August 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    These little corners will become increasingly widespread perhaps.

    Aphonia, eh? From that we get aphonist?

    • August 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm

      Could be. Someone who makes people voiceless rather than is voiceless themselves?

  3. August 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Perhaps you could sue the ‘owner’ of the link/webpage for brazen attempts to force law-breaking. Clearly you can claim innocence as no alert were posted e.g. “WARNING! You are about to view copyrighted content, please decease now if you do not wish to continue” (similar to “contents are hot” warnings on coffee cups). 😆

    • August 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      Wouldn’t the warning have to be hosted on a webpage and so opening the warning in your browser is also breaching copyright? You’d need a warning for the warning, and a warning for the warning about the warning, and so on. This might be the reason some coffee shops put one cup inside the other because the first one’s too hot to hold because of the hot coffee it contains 😕 Mmmmmm, head hurts. I think I need to have a lie down.

      • August 5, 2011 at 5:50 am


    • Boots McGonagle
      August 4, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      “…please decease now if you do not wish to continue.” There’s a funny kind of logic in that.

  4. August 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Not only that but the EU introduced new cookie regulations a little while ago which (potentially) really mess up the use of adverts and sitemeters/analytics on websites.

  5. August 4, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    It’s an interesting concept that anyone would want to publish a web page to the public without giving permission to read it.
    In any case I do not make a copy, if anyone does it’s Microsoft or Mozilla, and is outside my control.

    • August 5, 2011 at 7:45 am

      Woodsy, easy for us lay people to say but it does look to me that they’re not interested in actual prosecution but having the power to prosecute – to criminalize people to be able to control their behaviour.

      • August 5, 2011 at 10:15 am

        You are right James, it’s practically a nonsense but adds another small step towards censorship and user regulation of the web, something which might be useful to the authorities at some future date.

  6. banned
    August 5, 2011 at 2:24 am

    I was chatting with a lawyer who specialises in internet copyright issues a while back, specifically about the haphazard use of images by bloggers and the like.
    We concluded that anytime anyone views a page with any image (unless owned by that reader) Windows has copied that image onto the hard drive and thus put the viewer in breach of copyright.

    • August 5, 2011 at 5:50 am

      They don’t accept that ‘excuse’ for child porn, so logically, can’t accept it for anything else!

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