European Interest

Copyright holders backed by top EU court

Flickr/Transparency International/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Want to publish content that is freely available on the internet? Don’t even think about it! Europe’s top court ruled on August 7 that you need to get consent from the copyright holder first.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling came after a secondary school student in Germany downloaded a photograph of Cordoba from a travel website to illustrate a presentation which was then published on the school website.

Photographer Dirk Renckhoff then sued the city of Waltrop and North Rhine-Westphalia for copyright infringement and €400 in damages. A German court then sought guidance from the Luxembourg-based ECJ, which went against a non-binding opinion from its adviser four months ago.

“The posting on a website of a photograph that was freely accessible on another website with the consent of the author requires a new authorization by that author,” judges said.

“By posting on the internet, the photograph is made available to a new public,” they said.

Judges said posting a work online was different from hyperlinks which lead users to another website and thus contribute to the smooth functioning of the internet.

“Subject to the exceptions and limitations laid down exhaustively in that directive, any use of a work by a third party without such prior consent must be regarded as infringing the copyright of that work,” the court said, referring to EU copyright legislation.

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