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Infringement through hyperlinking requires new kid on the block


Michiel Rijsdijk

The Internet has thrown protection of copyright into a whole new dimension.

The counterparts of normally harmless actions can infringe copyright when performed on the internet. Giving an address of a location where one might see certain images, for example, is generally harmless in real life. On the Internet, however, it can be like opening Pandora’s box.

Sharing an address on the internet is hyperlinking. A more advanced form of hyperlinking is embedding, which is basically the same except that the viewer does not have to click a link: the target website is loaded inside the host website and both can be viewed at the same time. Hyperlinking and embedding are generally harmless. When the given address concerns copyrighted material, however, things change.

In a recent preliminary ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) looked into a case referred to it by the Svea Court of Appeal into whether hyperlinking and embedding should be considered as acts of communication to the public, as mentioned in Article 3 of the European Copyright Directive. The case involved a number of Swedish journalists (Svensson et al) and Retriever Sverige, a company that provides links to online articles in which the journalists own the copyright.

copyright infringement, CJEU, hyperlinks


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