Playboy wins copyright battle over web links to its images

Thu Sep 8, 2016 9:46am EDT
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By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - 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 European Union's top court decided that posting such links infringes copyright when the website doing it is seeking to profit from pictures published without permission.

Sanoma, Playboy's Dutch publisher had sought to get website GeenStijl, which describes itself as one of the most visited news websites in the Netherlands, to remove a web link to photos of a TV celebrity Britt Dekker which were posted illegally.

"It is undisputed that GS Media (which owns GreenStijl)provided the hyperlinks to the files containing the photos for profit and that Sanoma had not authorised the publication of those photos on the internet," the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said in a statement.

"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."

GS Media said the ruling was a blow to press freedom.

"If commercial media companies - such as GeenStijl - can no longer freely and fearlessly hyperlink it will be difficult to report on newsworthy new questions, leaked information and internal struggles and unsecure networks in large companies," it said on GeenStijl's website.

The issue of hyperlinking to photos and articles has become a divisive issue with the spread of the internet. Content owners argue that the ease with which people can post links to copyrighted material on the internet infringes their rights while internet users say restricting people's ability to post links goes against the principle of freedom of information.   Continued...

Dani Mathers, 28, the 2015 Playmate of the Year, poses during a luncheon on the garden grounds of the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, California May 14, 2015. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian