Let’s get the facts out of the way before we go into the issues. Playboy, a publication that made a lot of money from peddling and publishing pictures of nude girls for many years, had a judgement passed in its favor stopping a website posting links to Playboy images.
To get more specific, GeenStijl, a very popular website operating out of Holland, has been banned from posting links on their sites that would redirect readers to Playboy images. The court action was instituted by Sanoma, the publishers of Playboy in Holland.
Sanoma claimed that by posting these links to Playboy images, GeenStijl was infringing on copyright material and making money from it. The court largely agreed with Sanoma and held that it was illegal to post these links especially if it was made with the intent of making money.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), in passing this judgement said:
“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.
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.”
GeenStijl In their statement went right to the heart of the matter:
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.”
Why this could spell doom for Internet as we know it
Some people might look at this court ruling and think it is just a case between Playboy and a different website profiting from Playboy’s images. It is not true.
The court ruling has set a very bad precedent for the internet as we know it.
For example, using the ruling, it is possible for website A to sue website B for copyright infringement by claiming the links used by website B (which are links redirecting readers to A) were used to make money by B. Because, the judgement only said that kind of infringement is a copyright violations if the offender is making money from posting the links.
The definition of making money can be flexible in this case. Somebody can easily claim the links attract a lot of traffic to the website. And we know traffic in the online world is closely tied to the revenue stream of websites.
This could get worst for the smaller websites and blogs who are forced to use links to bigger websites to validate their stories.
Courts and their recklessness
These days it is becoming common for all manner of courts and judges to pass judgement about local cases that have far reaching impact on other people.
The case of a regional court in Brazil is still fresh in the memory. WhatsApp got shut down in Brazil because a regional judge passed a judgement about a local matter between law enforcement agents and crime syndicates.
For some spurious reason, the court ordered that WhatsApp be shut down unless they helped the security agents in their investigations. The Judge did not understand that end-to-end encryption made it impossible for WhatsApp to provide help.
For that reason, millions of people in Brazil were unable to use WhatsApp until a couple of days later when a superior judge invalidated the ruling.
The most recent is that of a European Court going for Apple’s jugular in Ireland over unpaid back taxes. And these were tax waivers Apple got from the government of Ireland which the EU court declared illegal.
Courts should watch the way they pass these rulings. This is the 21st century. The world is now largely based online. They should change their statutes to reflect that. Because I am sure they are basing these rulings on laws that were promulgated even before people started dreaming of an interconnected world.
image credit: ragantraining.com; playboy.pt; klaarbeekepe.nl; cnn.com