The Court of Justice, the European Union’s highest judicial body, has ruled that the authorization of the rights holder is not required to link freely available copyrighted information from one site to another. The case, involving Swedish journalists upset over a site that indexed and pointed to their already posted works online, had been widely watched and was the cause for considerable online buzz. The judges in Luxembourg decided the matter by considering whether the links provided a means by which a communication to the public occurs — and which, thus, is regulated under European law so originators (authors, composers or others who hold copyrights) must be consulted. The court said that because the materials already were freely available on one site, no new audiences were created, and, thus, the creators’ copyrights were not breached and they did not need to be consulted. If there are pay walls or other content protections, or if the links trace to original material as posted on secondary and not primary sites, well, the European judges said that is different; those instances breach copyrights. While Hollywood also had kept an eye on this case , the Motion Picture Association of America welcomed the European decision, particularly as it dealt with linking to restricted material. As the Hollywood Reporter noted, the movie and music industries as well as performers of various kinds have battled “link hubs,” where fans and pirates park online crumbs leading to creative materials, including music, scripts and unfinished films so others can find and download these. Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino recently has pursued legal action and issued take-down notices after his script for a prospective and unmade film, The Hateful Eight, was posted and linked to at several spots online.
EU high court clarifies fair use of hyperlinks
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