Simple links can be infringement of copyright

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

courtBloggers beware! The European Court of Justice has made a judgment that many will see as very strange indeed.

A new judgment by the European Court of Justice has currently many Bloggers worried and, apparently, rightly so. According to this judgment simple links to other online content can constitute a copyright infringement and thus be a felony.

Blogs often contains many links to other online content and up till now Bloggers thought little about this and linked this and put in links, either in the text or as references to back up their articles and arguments and to show examples. Some even, and I have done so myself, link, with partial texts, to articles on other Blogs of websites. This will have to change in future, it would seem.

A new ruling by the European Court of Justice could become a catastrophe for Bloggers. The second chamber of the court has decided that the mere inclusion of a link can – can, not might – constitute an infringement of copyright. Everyone will now have to verify whether such contents that are being linked are protected by copyright, and this verification has to be ongoing for should some copyrighted material turn up on that site at some later date so could it have severe consequences for the person who has set the link to that particular page or site.

The judgment, so it is claimed, shall only be relevant for businesses and Blogs financed by advertising and not for private individuals. That, however, I would take with a large pinch of salt.

Despite the fact that the court has acknowledged that this ruling could have serious consequences for freedom of opinion and even freedom of speech have they decided that commercial operators of websites and Blogs have the express duty to verify before and also after nothing is linked to copyrighted material. But that is often not that easy to verify and at times it is not obvious at all whether the content on another site is protected by copyright.

There is, however, not proper definition available for this and thus Bloggers financed by advertising and commercial operators are more and more in danger of falling foul of the law by putting up links to other articles and sources.

Even if it is being said that the judgment is not applicable to private individuals running a Blog it has to be said that “financed by advertising” is very much a stretchable term and in addition to that if the link is to a site or page or article which is marked as copyright it still could be seen as an infringement and a private individual could also be held to account. Many a Blogger, who is but a private individual, may take advertising on the Blog, whether directly paid for or in the form of Google ads, for instance, and could be seen, thus, as having a Blog supported by advertising, and could, therefore, be treated by the court as such.

I have to say this is really a nice way by the powers-that-be to stifle exchange of information and and of free opinion building.

© 2016