‘Hyperlinking under threat’ as Playboy wins court fight over copyright

Playboy won a legal fight to stop a website from posting links to images published without permission on Thursday, a decision which could have far wider consequences across the internet. The men’s magazine publisher was backed by the European Union’s top court in its fight against Dutch website GeenStijl. It wanted the site to stop posting links to pictures of photos of TV celebrity Britt Dekker, which had been posted elsewhere without permission. The court said websites should not post such links if they were seeking to profit from them.

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

European Court of Justice ruling

The ruling should settle a case which has been rumbling through the Dutch courts and could set a precedent for other website publishers in Europe. It could be difficult for those posting such links to know if they are doing it legally, the court acknowledged. But, once they were informed of a breach of copyright or other issue, they should take it down. However, campaigners fear the decision is a blow for press freedom. GeenStijl said: “An eye on profit, that’s something dirty, according to the European clowns. The consequence is that from now on, you always run the risk of being sued, just for placing a hyperlink.”

This case shows that the freedom to hyperlink is under attack

Jakob Kucharczyk, director of computer and communications trade group, CCIA Europe