With the worldwide web containing at least 1.88 billion pages it has become a legal minefield for many users. What can be written, what can be read, and what can be copied are just some of the issues this massive databank of information poses.
Central to internet legalities and an ongoing issue for users, is the complex subject of copyright. Copyright is defined as “the legal right of creative artists or publishers to control the use and reproduction of their original works.” With the vast amount of content available on the internet, questions surrounding ownership and originality of content regularly arise.
But now, clarification of copyright surrounding the issue of linking from one web page to others has been given by the European Court of Justice. The Court has ruled that websites can link to freely available content elsewhere on the internet without the permission of the copyright holder.
“The whole purpose of the internet is to give us access to an extensive range of information at our fingertips,” said Oxley & Coward’s Amy Cusworth. “A key element of this is the ‘signposting’ of content from one website to another. This helps users navigate around the internet easily and find the content they’re looking for quickly.”
The landmark ruling followed a case brought by Swedish journalists who complained after a web design company, Retriever Sverige, which provides links to other websites created links from its own page to online news articles written by the journalists.
The journalists argued in the original case that users of Retriever Sverige's website would not know that they had been sent to another website by clicking on the links and therefore had made their articles available without authorisation. They said that because of this they were due compensation.
The case was unsuccessful in the Swedish courts but there was an appeal and the appeal court asked the EU Court of Justice to consider whether copyright law had been broken.
The court ruled that the law had not been broken because the articles in question were on the journalists’ website and therefore already "freely available." But it ruled that the situation would be different if a link led users to material that had purposely been restricted from being freely available - for example if it had been posted on a site that operates a paywall.
“We welcome this ruling allowing websites to link to freely available content elsewhere. Any restrictions limiting users’ accessibility to information impact on the effectiveness and usability of the worldwide web,” concluded Amy.
For further information on Oxley & Coward Solicitors LLP, please call 01709 510999 or visit the website at www.oxcow.co.uk
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Amy Cusworth of Oxley & Coward Solicitors LLP
Tel.: 0114 275 6996
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