Are Hyperlinks Infringement? European Court Says No

Posting a hyperlink to a website that has published unauthorized photographs does not in itself constitute copyright infringement, an official at Europe’s highest court has said. According to World IP Review, the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) top legal adviser has recommended making that ruling that prank website GeenStijl not be held at fault for linking back to an Australian website who had unlawfully posted pictures of Dutch TV personality Britt Dekker. GeenStijl refused a request from Sanoma Media, the publishing company to which the photographs belonged, to remove the link. This is a decision that could reverberate throughout the world, especially when one considers the terms of fair use, and how often journalists use links to establish part of their narrative. By essentially signing off on linking to illegally-obtained photographs, the ECJ could create a very slippery slope. Why? Well, when the materials are photographs of a TV personality, it may not carry as many implications. But what about a mock-up of a new consumer product, like Apple’s latest iPhone? That’s a leak that could potentially cost the company millions. Additionally, in a post-WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden world, where top secret information has been known to find its way into the media’s hands, it takes on a whole other meaning. Taking copyright infringement off the table as a road of recourse when linking to photographs certainly would give news outlets more latitude in this area. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is certainly open to interpretation.