PRCA and Meltwater defend internet freedom–open letter to UK MPs

PRCAMeltwater

Dear Alec

I am writing to you asking for your help as a concerned constituent following the Court of Appeal’s decision on the 27 July regarding ‘temporary copying’. The decision means that millions of UK citizens will unwittingly be infringing copyright as they surf the Internet.

This situation has arisen as a result of a wider judgement in Newspaper Licensing Authority Ltd. (NLA) v Meltwater Group and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA). Further details of the case can be found here (http://bit.ly/oqhEoX) but the principle on temporary copies extends far beyond this case.

By ruling that the process of displaying a web page on screen is legally the same as making a copy, and that anyone browsing the Internet is subject to the terms and conditions of that site by browsing it (even if they have not accepted the terms and conditions), the repercussions of the Court’s judgment will either be to change the culture of the Internet in the UK or to unwittingly outlaw millions of users of the Internet.

While the owner of a website can use a paywall or other mechanism to stop anyone visiting their site, I cannot know what site I am visiting until it has appeared on my screen, by which time I have made a copy. The onus must logically be on the owner of the content to restrict access to that content, rather than on me to try to avoid pages where I might be infringing copyright or incidentally accepting terms and conditions simply by clicking on a URL.

I agree with the need to protect intellectual property and to reward effort put in to generating content. However putting the onus on users of the Internet to avoid infringing the rights of these owners is counter-intuitive and will severely hamper both my and my employer’s productivity. If owners of intellectual property wish to limit access to their content or generate revenues from internet users then they can easily do so by putting the content behind a login or paywall, without the far reaching consequences of this ruling.

The above interpretation of the ruling is shared by Professor Bently, Emeritus of Intellectual Property, Cambridge University. If you would like to find out more there is further information here: (http://bit.ly/r9F12U)

Please would you confirm that you share my concern around this issue? And please help me to raise it with the relevant decision makers. In particular, I know that following the Hargreaves Review (http://bit.ly/e7jPxQ), the Secretary of State for Business and Intellectual Property will be potentially implementing a range of issues in this area, and this issue requires further attention. Please would you ensure the issue of temporary copies is raised as part of that process?

This is an example of legislation being unable to keep pace with technological advances. Browsing content online must fall within a temporary copy exemption and should not require a right-holder’s consent, unless the end user has expressly accepted any contractual terms required by the right-holder.

Thank you in advance for your help and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Yours sincerely

Stuart Bruce MCIPR

Letters to MPs

MPs can only deal with cases for their own constituents, which is why this open letter is addressed to Alec Shelbrooke MP who represents my constituency of Elmet and Rothwell. But I wanted to publish it here as I know that there are lots of other MPs who I count as friends, colleagues, comrades and acquaintances who sometimes read this blog and/or follow me on Twitter and I’d like you to take notice and act as well.

You can find out more about the campaign by the PRCA and Meltwater here.

cc @AlecShelbrooke @tom_watson @KerryMP @andyburnhammp @TomHarrisMP @jreedmp @CarolineFlintMP @edballsmp @HazelBlearsMP @jimpknight @marycreagh_mp @YvetteCooperMP @StuartAndrewMP @RachelReevesMP – not a full list and sorry for no links, but takes too long on dodgy @NRE_EastCoast wifi!

About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.

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