UK Courts:Viewing A Web Page Without The Owner’s Permission Was Copyright Infringement

(Glyn Moody)  Last year Techdirt wrote about the almost unbelievable Meltwater decision in the UK, where the courts said that viewing a Web page without the owner’s permission was copyright infringement. In November last year, leave was granted to Meltwater to make an appeal against the ruling to the UK’s Supreme Court. However, that still leaves the inconvenient matter of the infringement by tens of millions of UK Web users hundreds of times every day in the meantime.

To rectify this ridiculous situation, the British MP Fiona O’Donnell has proposed some simple amendments to UK copyright law, as this post on Out-Law.com explains:

The act of downloading data required to view that copyright material “and any subsequent processing of that data, including processing for display, provided that it does not result in any publication elsewhere of the work or an adaptation of the work” should also be explicitly permissible, O’Donnell’s draft amendment had proposed.

Given its frequent exhortations to the public not to infringe on copyright in any way, you would have thought the UK government would have rushed this amendment through in order to legalize what are, after all, absolutely indispensable actions when using the Web. But no:

Last week Business Minister Norman Lamb said the Government would not draft new copyright laws to make the act of website browsing explicitly legitimate and not in breach of copyright until the courts had ruled on the issue.

Since the Supreme Court is not expected to rule on this until the beginning of next year, that means another six months of blanket infringement for UK users of the Web. When even the British government seems not to care about the letter of copyright law, which is hard enough to understand at the best of times, how are ordinary citizens supposed to know what is legal or illegal as they go about their daily lives online?

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