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Do Internet Hyperlinks Not Infringe Copyright? European Court of Justice's advocate general believes they don't

By Rustam Singh

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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European Court of Justice's advocate general has surprisingly sided with the opinion that internet hyperlinks do not infringe copyright. This raises serious debate over our definition of copyrights over the internet and may favor a new series of re-hashing content or rebranding content and publishing it with a flashier style.

The debate came to highlight when a website in the Netherlands had provided a hyperlink to an Australian site showing pictures of a Dutch celebrity taken by Playboy magazine. The Australian site did not have Playboy's consent to do so. However such a trend is neither new nor rare. Websites often repackage content included copyrighted images and texts on their own portal, stating they are the middlemen to reach the original website itself.

However, posting a hyperlink to photos published without authorization does not in itself constitute copyright infringement, according to Advocate General Melchior Wathelet in an Opinion to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Mr Wathelet's Opinion is not ultimately binding on the court, though a ruling is set to follow in the coming months.

This is not an isolated incident however. In 2014, a similar case was brought before the European Court in which Swedish journalists argued that a web company that posted links to online news articles had broken copyright rules. However the court was wise to state that the information was already available readily only and because the articles in question were online already without subscriptions or paid logins, they were "freely available" and so posting links to them would not constitute infringement.

Right now there hasn't been a technical or binding conclusion reached, but this raises questions over the way we consider content on the internet. Would you feel comfortable knowing some republishing company is publishing your content on their portal, probably even getting more traffic, in exchange for linking and publicizing you a bit? Or would you reserve your work to your own portal? Let us know in the comments on our official Facebook page Entrepreneur India

Rustam Singh


Tech reporter.

Contact me if you have a truly unique technology related startup looking for a review and coverage, especially a crowd-funded project looking to launch and coverage.

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