EU rules on copyright infringement via hyperlink

September 9, 2016 // 11:35 a.m.

Tags: #copyright #copyright-infringement #court-of-justice #curia #europe #european-union #gs-media #hyperlink #law #legal #link #playboy #sanoma-media

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CURIA) has published its judgement in a case of copyright infringement by hyperlink, ruling that foreknowledge and for-profit must be behind any true infringement.

The CURIA ruling, published late last night, came as a result of a lawsuit between Playboy publisher Sanoma Media Netherlands and local blog company GS Media. The latter had published an article linking to images originally published by Playboy but hosted on a third-party site in Australia. When contacted by Sanoma, GS Media refused to take down the article or remove the link to the copyright content; when the Australian site took down the infringing images, GS Media then published an updated article linking to another website where the images could be found. When that site, too, complied with a request for removal of the content, GS Media's users took to the site's forums to post links to additional copies of the content.

Although the court has ruled that GS Media did indeed break copyright law in its actions, CURIA's judgement is clear: ordinary users posting hyperlinks have nothing to fear. 'The posting of a hyperlink on a website to works protected by copyright and published without the author’s consent on another website does not constitute a ‘communication to the public’ when the person who posts that link does not seek financial gain and acts without knowledge that those works have been published illegally,' the opening paragraph of CURIA's release to press on the judgement states.

GS Media, meanwhile, has no such defence. The company runs its websites as for-profit businesses, and even if it could argue that it did not originally realise that the content was published without permission of the rightsholders it certainly knew so after it was contacted by Sanoma on behalf of Playboy. The rulings will be used in the national court, which has yet to rule on its own version of the case.

The full judgement can be found on the CURIA website.
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