Is it OK to hyperlink to copyright protected material?

copyright_symbolA recent court case before the European Courts of Justice (CJEU), has added clarification to the question of when you are allowed to hyperlink from your website to copyright protected material.

Posting hyperlinks to legally published copyright protected material is allowed, even without the copyright owners permission.   You are not, however, allowed to link to material that you know has been illegally posted.

GS Media BV v. Sanoma Media a.o. case (C-160-15)  is a dispute between Dutch shockblog GeenStijl and Sanoma, publisher of Playboy.   GeenStijl posted hyperlinks on its website to a website showing copyright protected photographs which had not previously been published, and had been posted on the website without permission from the copyright holder.

The court has ruled that parties with a profit motive would be expected to research whether or not the materials that it is linking to have been published legitimately.

If one of the parties does not have a profit motive, they would not be expected to have the resources to carry out the necessary research to find out if the material is posted legitimately, then it is acceptable to link to the material.

Click to view and download the Flow Chart below

copyright-flow-chart

Even if there is a profit motive, if it can be proved that there was enough evidence to believe that the material was legally posted, you are able to link to the material.

In essence, if you knowingly link to material that is published without the copyright owners permission, you are breaching their copyright, and you are expected to take reasonable efforts to establish whether or not the material has been legally published.

If you have any questions about this or any other intellectual property issue please contact us.