(CN) – A Danish press-clipping company could be violating copyright by printing out 11-word snippets of news articles, the European Court of Justice ruled. The Luxembourg-based court remanded the issue to Denmark for a determination on whether the excerpts constitute intellectual property.
Media monitoring services company Infopaq International challenged the Danske Dagblades Forening, an association of Danish daily newspapers, over a requirement for permission to distribute 11-word extracts of news stories.
Legal framework for the permission requirement includes the 1979 Berne Convention, the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights as administered by the World Trade Organization, and European directives from 1996 and 2001 meant to govern electronic information and protect “European cultural creativity.”
Infopaq argued that its process of scanning news articles, converting the data to text and emailing its customers summaries containing the five words before and after a keyword comprise fleeting use that’s exempt from the permission requirements. Infopaq also prints out cover sheets with the text snippets.
Europe’s highest court held that the 11-word extracts were indeed “reproduction in part” under intellectual property laws. The court described transient acts as being “created and deleted automatically and without human intervention,” such as those allowing for database browsing and caching. Such acts must also be incidental, the court said.
The scanned images and text files are transient, the court wrote, so long as they are automatically deleted. Any printout of the data, however, creates a more permanent reproduction that can only be undone if humans destroy the printouts. The court said printed cover sheets are also not incidental and require copyright permission.
The Court of Justice said it is up to the national court to determine whether the snippets comprise intellectual property.