On February 13, 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a long-awaited judgement in the field of copyright law(C-466/12). The issue concerned whether the use of hyperlinks towards protected works available on another website constituted a copyright infringement of the content.
The Court has clearly ruled in favour of free movement of contents online. Indeed, it considered that a website owner can use hyperlinks to redirect protected works freely available on another website without authorisation of the copyright holders.
According to the Court, it is not an act of communication to the public or a disclosure of a work for the public to have access. The communication should indeed have been addressed to a new public; in other words, a public who was not targeted by the copyright holder upon the authorisation of initial communication. However, as per the assumption raised by the Court, different links may target same categories of users as those targeted by the copyright holder upon the authorisation of initial communication. There is no new public.
In the contrary, if the hyperlink found on a website enables users to divert the restrictions set up by the website to a protected content limiting access to restricted public, an action for infringement can be filed. In fact, it does not concern the targeted public upon the authorisation of the initial communication and consequently, copyright infringement must be claimed.
Following this judgement, one can speculate in which circumstances the responsibility of a hyperlink provider can be engaged when the hyperlink directs to contents infringing copyright.
Watch this space…