European Court of Justice rules on hyperlink case

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that operators of websites linking to materials that infringe copyright can be found guilty of copyright infringement, if the operators knew or could reasonably have known that the material constituted an infringement. Moreover, operators would be presumed to know about the infringements if the links are provided for ‘the pursuit of financial gain’. The ruling follows the advice of the Advocate General issued earlier this year. The case concerned the publisher of the Dutch edition of Playboy, who filed the case against a Dutch website that had published a cutout from one of the pictures and linked to a file storage site; the pictures had been published without Playboy’s consent. Activists are now arguing that the ruling infringes on Internet freedoms, and that sites should not be responsible for the content of the links they refer to. The case could have broader consequences on the ways in which digital publishers operate.