displayrights.com logo

Hyperlinks And Accidental Copyright Infringement

A screenshot of the beginning of a hyperlinl

Be careful what you link to …

Have you ever embedded a hyperlink on a webpage to someone else’s copyright material? According to a case at the EU Court of Justice, there is a chance that you could be infringing copyright law, and we’ll tell you why …

So, firstly, what is hyperlinking?

 This involves placing a link on a webpage that redirects the person who clicked on it to another webpage or file which could potentially be someone else’s copyrighted work. This was recently tested at the EU Court of Justice in the ‘Svensson’ case.

“A Dutch magazine website linked to a hidden zip file containing images of an unpublished photoshoot!”

The hyperlink said that readers of their website could download the files “here”. The publisher (owner of the copyrighted photos) took the magazine to a Dutch court after they refused to remove the link to the copyrighted work. It was then referred upwards to the EU Court of Justice for clarification on copyright law.

The court decided, in line with EU copyright law, that two requirements needed to be satisfied if hyperlinking would amount to a copyright infringing act:

1.  that it was an act of communication of a copyrighted work not belonging to the individual

2.  that this communication was to the public

On the first matter, this will more often than not always be satisfied as by using a hyperlink, you are making that work available to others. It is the second question that is not so straight forward.

A communication to the public has the underlying meaning of being a ‘new’ public from which the content creator intended his work to be for.

Therefore, each individual case needs to be looked at based on its facts and the audience that it reaches. In EU vs Svensson, the court found that there was not a new public, as the audience was much the same the original audience of the copyrighted work.

However, although in this case it was determined that the defendant was not infringing copyright laws, it does not mean all hyperlinking will be interpreted in the same way.

There are many reasons as to why the Svensson case cannot be taken as a ‘get out of jail free card’ that allows all to hyperlink without fear of infringement:

1.  The court did not assess a case which involved commercial use and economic gain. If you are hyperlinking someone else’s work as part of your business or advertising methods, it is always better to get a license from them.


2.  A content creator/owner of the copyrighted work may have imposed their own terms and conditions on the website that you are hyperlinking to which means that despite being freely accessible, the contractual terms on which you are accessing it will prohibit certain use of that work. Contractual terms like this often expressly prohibit commercial use. Therefore, it is extremely important that this is taken into account and again, a license should be obtained.


3.  The court failed to consider what would happen if the work you are hyperlinking to was made available without the copyright owners permission. For example, if someone places a video on YouTube without a license or permission from the copyright owner. Then this will be an infringement in itself, and you will therefore be infringing work via the act of ‘distribution’. This point also stands if someone that once gave permission for a video to be up then revokes that permission.


4.  If the copyright creator/owner of the copyrighted work has a restriction as to who can access their work using something like a paywall, a subscription or any other access limiting process, then by hyperlinking to that work, you are automatically infringing their copyright.

As you can see, there was a lot left open by the courts. This shows that copyright law is not as straightforward as some may think. Remember, even innocently hyperlinking to a Youtube Video may mean you are infringing copyright works although this would better apply to a hidden one rather than a public one.

“Get a license to be sure!”

Here at Display Rights, we are more than happy to help get you a license from one of our many partners so that you can access that copyright-protected material without having to worry about being open to future litigation.

Until next time …

More About Licensing and Copyright
Like to know more?

If anything I’ve written in this blog post resonates with you and you’d like to discover more about, get in touch with us or leave a comment below and let’s see how we can help you.


About DisplayRights

In 2003, DisplayRights, formally known as Executive Interviews, recognised the rising demand for online video, specifically in the corporate sector, and relaunched itself as a company focused on the recording, repackaging, and rights distribution of television and radio news interviews. Since then, DisplayRights has expanded to become a full-service, global company recording over 150,000 interviews and news clips annually. DisplayRights is headquartered in the UK, with wholly-owned subsidiaries in the United States and Asia.
As the needs of our clients change, so do we! We have now fully rebranded to DisplayRights to better reflect what we do, which now includes talks and presentations as well as executive interviews. We hope that our new brand can better serve how our content partners and clients want to work with us.
We are proudly partnered with the world’s leading business news networks, providing their guests with timely, professionally-produced, and fully licensed video clips to post to their public websites or corporate Intranets, use at trade shows, investor conferences, corporate meetings, and more.
In addition, we now offer registered access to more than 16,000 thought leadership videos from leading educational networks which can be accessed free of charge by anyone, helping them learn, grow and thrive.

Telephone: +44 1908 041290

displayrights.com logo

Registration will soon be available for licensing content on DisplayRights.

displayrights.com logo

Executive Interviews is soon to become Display Rights.