The internet dilemma of who owns the rights to content has just taken a new twist with a ruling by the High Court in London.
Judges were asked to determine if online radio service could broadcast music from internet services without infringing copyright.
The cases was brought by music production giants Warner Music and Sony Music Entertainment.
They argued that TuneIn infringed their copyright because the service allowed listeners to link to music produced by their artists without permission.
The case is one of a huge number before the courts in Europe following a European Union law that offers content providers exclusive control over how their work is communicated to the public.
But the law was framed before disruptive providers harnessed new technologies that allow internet users to access vast repositories of content for free.
The High Court ruled hyperlinking to internet content could be a copyright infringement because they could bring recordings owned by the companies to an audience not contemplated by the rights holders.
Justice Birss also decided that TuneIn was aiding users to infringe the copyright of internet radio stations that did not licence their content in the UK, even if they had licences elsewhere. This made the stations liable for infringing copyright if UK users accessed them through TuneIn.
TuneIn argued the internet service did not infringe copyright as exemptions in the EU rules captured the way their service worked – the three exemptions are acting as a mere conduit for the activities of others, as an unaware host of the unauthorised content, or in ‘caching’ content before onward transmission.
TuneIn CEO Juliette Morris said: “The court found in favour of TuneIn on the most important claim, confirming that music radio stations licensed in the UK can be made available through the TuneIn service to TuneIn’s UK users.
“While we continue to evaluate the ruling and consider all options, including appeal, we believe the judgment will have very little impact on the company’s revenue and ongoing growth strategies. We won on the most important element of the case, which was the right to provide UK users with access to UK-authorized radio stations.
“TuneIn is committed to complying with all applicable laws in the countries we serve and will continue to defend the right to operate a directory service providing listeners access to content freely available on the internet.”