Europe’s courts are considering a new law that would make companies liable for what they link to. The new legislation would make it so that websites would need to check any page they link to for copyright infringement, before linking to it. The case that is happening right now is built on a previous ruling that found that users on the net didn’t need to get permission from the owner of a web article to link to it, as long as the creator of the original page had proper permissions from copyright holders for all the media on the page. That ruling was helpful to web users, but it left the question open: what if the opposite were true? Is it illegal to link to a page on which you’re not sure of the copyright status?
The current case being heard by the highest court in Europe, the CJEU, is based on a Dutch blog who posted links to photos from Dutch Playboy that were leaked onto an Austrian server prior to publication. No one knows who put the photos on the server, and it’s pretty clear that the Dutch publisher only linked to the photos. The ruling could be a historic one, if they rule that yes, people must check links. This would mean that you would have to check all the links on the page you’re linking to, all the links from that page, and so on and so forth. It wouldn’t be very practical at all and is also probably very unenforceable, not to mention ridiculous.
Making it even more complex, most typical web users, which can be anyone from a kid to an elderly person, don’t know much about international copyright law, making it nearly impossible for them to know if the pages they want to link to would be compliant with the law or not. The outcome of this case will be interesting, and most people are hoping for a common sense outcome.
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