research group – reading group

Hyperlinking as Copyright Infringement

The debates around whether hyperlinking is copyright infringement are important for digital anthropology and all scholars. This case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) centers on the question of whether linking to a copyrighted work constitutes communicating that content to the public.

“A case referred to the CJEU by Sweden’s Court of Appeal is definitely one to watch, as the outcome has the potential to affect the very structure of the Internet.

The case involves a Swedish journalist called Svensson who wrote an article which was subsequently published by a Swedish newspaper both in print and on the newspaper’s website. Svensson’s dispute is with Retriever Sverige AB, a subscription service that supplies links to articles that can be found online.

Svensson said that by providing links to his article, Retriever was communicating his work or making it available to the public without permission and for this he should be compensated.” (Read more…)

The European Copyright Society, a lobbying group/academic collective has released an opinion on the matter writing:

“As Tim-Berners Lee, who is regularly accredited as being an inventor of the World Wide Web, has explained, a standard hyperlink is nothing more than a reference or footnote, and that the ability to refer to a document is a fundamental right of free speech” (Read the full opinion here: direct link to PDF)

This issue affects scholars everywhere, but especially in universities where the corporate discourse of “Enterprise Computing” has a strong impact on policy. Within CUNY, for example, some schools have blocked torrent traffic, simply because the protocol is sometimes used to share copyrighted work – even though it is also used to share work in the public domain, data sets, and research materials. These bans and blocks on particular kinds of network traffic are creating an Information Technology culture that links academic policy making to institutional fears about litigation from copyright holders.

It’s interesting to imagine the state of the Internet if linking starts to be banned by administrators who fear litigation. Or, even more troubling would be an Internet in which hyperlinks must be licensed.



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