Hyperlinks May Infringe Copyright

The Court of Justice of the European Union has cast doubt on the relatively orthodox view that a hyperlink on a website that links to copyrighted material does not constitute an infringement of copyright.

In GS Media BV  v  Sanoma  Media Netherlands BV, Playboy  Enterprises  International  Inc., Britt  Geertruida  Dekker the ECJ held as follows:

“…. where  it  is  established  that  such  a  person  knew  or  ought  to  have  known  that  the hyperlink  he  posted  provides  access  to  a  work  illegally  published,  for  example  owing  to  the  fact that  he  was  notified  thereof  by  the  copyright  holders,  the  provision  of  that  link  constitutes  a ‘communication  to  the  public’.  The  same  applies  if  that  link  allows  users  to  circumvent  the restrictive  measures  taken  by  the  site  where  the  protected  work  is  posted  in  order  to  restrict  the public’s  access  to its  own subscribers. “

Arguably, this is an example of a court recognizing that in the online world copyright can be undermined directly and indirectly and that those parties who knowingly and for commercial gain procure or facilitate infringement by others should be held to account.

A copy of the Court’s recent press release is available at:

http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2016-09/cp160092en.pdf

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