Linking to Copyrighted Material Isn't a Crime Says EU Advocate General

By Tom Pritchard on at

Good news would-be pirates, EU Advocate General Melchior Wathelet says that linking to websites that host copyrighted material without permission is not a crime. That's great news for the internet's many seedy streaming sites.

This statement comes after Dutch courts sought Wathelet's opinion on the case of the blog GeenStijl linking to websites hosting leaked Playboy photo collections. Originally the site linked to a file-sharing service where people could download the images directly, but once Playboy had those links pulled the blog just linked to other public sources.

Explaining his opinion, Wathelet said this:

"Hyperlinks which lead, even directly, to protected works are not 'making them available' to the public when they are already freely accessible on another website, and only serve to facilitate their discovery."

Back in 2014 the EU Court was forced to intervene when Swedish journalists got a bit angsty about websites linking to their work without permission, believing they should pay for the privilege of doing so. The EU Court of Justice determined that provided both websites were freely available to the public, direct linking does not classify copyright infringement. Those journalists now have to sit back and live with it, while enjoying the resulting SEO boost.

In this case it would be up to Playboy to pull down the sites illegally hosting copyrighted material, rather than going after the websites linking to it.

This is currently Wathelet's opinion, and isn't currently legally binding, but the EU courts do tend to take the Advocate General's opinion seriously. The final verdict will be published sometime later this year. [Reuters via Engadget]