Online Copyright Infringement: Dutch Court Says Linking Constitutes Infringement

copyright lawA Dutch court weighed in on a case about hyperlinking to leaked photos. It ruled that website GeenStjil was guilty of copyright infringement when it posted a link to unreleased Playboy photo shoot pics of Britt Dekker, a Dutch reality TV star.

The decision mirrors an EU Court of Justice ruling deeming hyperlinks a copyright violation if the publisher profits by introducing private content to a public audience. In the GeenStjil  case, the court found that the public wouldn’t have known of the unpublished photos it not for the link. Since the blog stood to profit from opening up access, the court decided the act amounted to online copyright infringement.

GeenStjil Ordered to Pay Up, But Plans To Appeal

The Court ordered GeenStjil to remove the hyperlink or pay $65,000 per day, up to a maximum of $1 million, if it chose to retain the link. Since GeenStjil was found guilty of copyright infringement, it was also ordered to pay Playboy’s legal fees.

For it’s part, GeenStjil argued that it couldn’t be guilty of infringement because it didn’t publish the photos, just their location. The site announced plans to appeal.

Pros and Cons of the This Hyperlink Online Copyright Infringement Ruling

Bits of Freedom (BoF), a Dutch digital rights organization, protested the verdict saying that it could have a negative consequence on search engines, like Google, operating on a profit and access model.

On the other side, Brein, an anti-piracy foundation, believes the ruling may deter websites that deliberately link to pirated content.

Law Professor, Dick Visser, commented that Playboy’s profits relied on the ability to publish the photos first. Interference with this process denied Playboy the right to revenue. Without such verdicts, he reasoned, it would be legal to link to stolen material anonymously on the Internet.

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