A number of recent cases have raised questions about whether or not the common practice of website linking can amount to copyright infringement.  

A French Court has reportedly affirmed a criminal copyright infringement conviction against an individual for running a website consisting of links to unauthorised film downloading sites.

The website called ledix.com allegedly provided links to hundreds of downloading sites where films and other pirated content could be accessed. The website reportedly generated an estimated €6,000 in advertising over a 4-year period. The accused was convicted after criminal proceedings were initiated by various film studios. The decision has not been made public but the Court of Appeals of Bordeaux affirmed the conviction and reportedly awarded damages of almost €10,000 to the copyright holders.

This follows on from a series of decisions regarding copyright and third-party linking. Last year, the UK Copyright Tribunal ruled in a case taken against the news aggregator service, Meltwater, by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA). As part of its media monitoring service, Meltwater had provided its clients with links to relevant third-party websites. The NLA contended that both Meltwater and its customers should be subject to NLA’s licensing agreements. Meltwater argued that the material sent to customers was insubstantial as to amount to a copyrighted work.

The Tribunal found that customers who only received links to headlines should be subject to the same licensing terms as customers provided with a headline and an extract from the relevant article. The Tribunal however also found that the NLA’s licensing terms were not reasonable. Following the decision, the parties reached a settlement on the licensing terms.

Separately, Meltwater has also appealed aspects of the UK Copyright Tribunal proceedings to the UK Supreme Court and the Court is now considering whether the ‘temporary copying’ exemption provided for in the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act is relevant to the Meltwater monitoring service.

Content owners, as well as news aggregator services and their customers, will await the decision of the UK Supreme Court in the Meltwater case which is expected to provide greater clarity on the issue.