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The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has passed judgement on the copyright case GS Media v Sanoma Media Netherlands. The judgement says that posting a hyperlink on a website to works protected by copyright and published without the author’s consent infringes copyright if those hyperlinks are provided for profit and in the knowledge of the illegality of the publication.
In the judgment, the Court declared that, in accordance with the directive concerned, Member States are to provide authors with the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit any communication to the public of their works. At the same time, that directive seeks to maintain a fair balance between, on the one hand, the interests of copyright holders and related rights and, on the other, the protection of the interests and fundamental rights of users of protected objects, in particular their freedom of expression and of information, as well as the general interest.
Responding to the judgement, John McVay, Chief Executive, Pact – the trade association representing the commercial interests of UK independent television, film, digital, children’s and animation media companies – said the verdict from the CJEU confirms that making a profit from the work of others by providing links to copyrighted material without permission from the owners is illegal. “The liability criteria put forward by the court today applies to sites that have already been targeted by rights holders for legal action and we will continue to take action against illegal sites through the courts. There is a proliferation of choice for consumers, with plenty of legitimate places to watch popular content in Europe. Action against illegal sites is not about preventing access to movies, TV and content – rather it aims to stop pirates exploiting content that’s not theirs and ensures that users consume content in a safe environment, where they receive the best possible user experience,” he declared.
According to Christine Payne, Chair, Creative Coalition Campaign, the verdict requires careful consideration to understand the full implications. “It is vital that creators continue to be able to take action against illegal sites that facilitate widespread theft of creative content and pose risks to consumers via malware and viruses. We believe that the criteria set out by the court today applies to these illegal sites. Namely, the user posting the link is in full knowledge of the consequences of its action and is seeking to make a profit. It is important this ruling does not absolve these sites from their responsibility to respect copyright online and uphold the law. The ability to protect the value of creative content online is critical to supporting the investment and millions of jobs provided by the UK’s world leading creative industries,” she stated.