The EU courts have come up with a somewhat confusing ruling on picture linking.
The European Union’s top court decided that Playboy was within its rights to stop a website from posting links to images published without permission.
It ruled that such linking infringes copyright when the website doing it is seeking to profit from pictures published without permission.
So in other words it is ok to publish pictures without permission, but your site must not be making any money from it.
Sanoma, Playboy’s Dutch publisher, had sought to get website GeenStijl, which describes itself as one of the most visited news websites in the Netherlands, to remove a web link to photos of a TV celebrity Britt Dekker which were posted illegally.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said in a statement that the magazine provided the hyperlinks to the files containing the photos for profit and that Sanoma had not authorised the publication of those photos on the internet.
“When hyperlinks are posted for profit, it may be expected that the person who posted such a link should carry out the checks necessary to ensure that the work concerned is not illegally published.”
GS Media insists it is all about press freedom.
“If commercial media companies – such as GeenStijl – can no longer freely and fearlessly hyperlink it will be difficult to report on newsworthy new questions, leaked information and internal struggles and unsecure networks in large companies,” it said.
Creativity Works, an association representing publishers, film and music producers, said: “Taking action against illegal sites is not about preventing access to creative content but to protect consumers and stop pirates who do not contribute to Europe’s cultural diversity while making a business out of exploiting content that’s not theirs.”
The ECJ recognised that the internet “is of particular importance to freedom of expression and of information and that hyperlinks contribute to its sound operation and to the exchange of opinions and information as well.”
It said that the clue for a user posting such links is when the copyright owner complains or he is doing it for profit.
The European Commission, the EU executive, is set next week to propose tougher rules on publishing copyrighted content, including a new exclusive right for news publishers to ask search engines like Google to pay to show snippets of their articles.