'Desktop with a Tablet PC, which shows the latest news on screen. Fresh Coffee and a Paper to take notes. Nikon D800e. Converted

You probably didn't know it, but the legality of what you're doing right now has been a hotly debated issue in EU courts -- reading articles online. For the last four years the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) and the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) have been trying to determine if browsing and viewing copyrighted material online required the authorization of the copyright holder; today the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that it does not. It sounds like a no-brainer, but the facts are a little more complicated: the two groups were arguing over the application of licenses to media monitoring agencies and their effects on the end-user.

According to the PR sector, the law could have been interpreted to make any user reading an online story liable for copyright infringement, but the Newspaper companies argued that its licensing fees would only apply to entities looking to make commercial use of their content. The court wound up erring on the side of caution, but the NLA says it won't have any effect on licensing fees. "Media monitoring agencies still require a license to copy online content to create paid-for services for their clients," explained NLA managing director David Pugh. "And their clients still need a license to receive those services." He went on to explain it mostly effects future services with public content portals, and said that if end-users don't need to pay license fees, those fees might increase for media monitoring firms to compensate. Convoluted? A little, but at least the news is still free to read.

[Image credit Getty: Images/Vetta]

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EU court rules that reading online news doesn't violate copyright