The advocate general of the European Court of Justice, Melchior Wathelet, has determined that linking to copyrighted material is not copyright infringement.
The Dutch blog GeenStijl linked to leaked Playboy photos hosted by the website FileFactory. Playboy was able to get FileFactory to remove the photos. When FileFactory no longer had the images, GeenStijl linked out to another website which had posted the photos. Playboy took GeenStijl to court.
Wathelet ruled that “Hyperlinks which lead, even directly, to protected works are not ‘making them available’ to the public when they are already freely accessible on another website, and only serve to facilitate their discovery.”
This must be a huge relief to bloggers and news sites in the European Union. Now, journalists and editors know that linking out to various resources will not be considered copyright infringement.
European libraries and librarians can also benefit from this ruling. For example, when creating subject guides, librarians can link out to material that could be useful for users – even if the library does not hold the copyright or a license. Librarians linking out to other websites won’t be making these materials available to the public, but they will be making the materials more discoverable.