The Internet provides access to many surprising things, including the means to enjoy copyrighted content without paying for it. Whether it’s movies or TV shows, music, books, games, software or other protected digital content, the Internet offers users ways to get their entertainment fix free of charge. Naturally, copyright holders are right to try to fight piracy, which they do on a regular basis, but a court in the European Union on Thursday ruled in favor of a certain type of copyright infringement.
As long as an Internet user is streaming copyrighted content online, GigaOm reports that it’s legal for the user, who isn’t willfully making a copy of said content. If the user only views it directly through a web browser, streaming it from a website that hosts it, he or she is apparently doing nothing wrong.
The ruling is part of a complex legal battle between a European media service that used to include headlines and ledes from various news stories in daily digests sent to readers via email. Copyright holders including the Associated Press sued Meltwater, the company in question, in the U.S. and U.K.
In Europe, one of the case’s matters also concerned regular Internet users. The group suing Meltwater argued that recipients of Meltwater’s emails had to pay license fees for the content they received, and the court basically ruled that Internet users who see content online, without actually willingly making a copy of it, should not be held accountable for any resulting copyright infringement.
This doesn’t mean that website owners who host copyrighted content illegally, which can be accessed and streamed by Internet users, are off the hook though. It’s just the end-user that’s covered under existing law from having to pay any fines for streaming any kind of illegally hosted copyrighted content from the Internet. This should be good news for all those German Internet users who received fines at home for streaming certain porn videos from a site last year.
Following below, is a relevant quote of the court’s ruling, which can be accessed in its entirety by following the source links at the end of this post.
Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the copies on the user’s computer screen and the copies in the internet ‘cache’ of that computer’s hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website, satisfy the conditions that those copies must be temporary, that they must be transient or incidental in nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process, as well as the conditions laid down in Article 5(5) of that directive, and that they may therefore be made without the authorisation of the copyright holders.