Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Paul Torremans
Chapter 22: Copyright enforcement on the internet in the European Union: Hyperlinks and making available right
Hyperlinks, or more simply links, represent a fundamental instrument for programmers to build websites and for users to navigate the web. The internet, as we know it today, is a complex and interrelated net of contents at the disposal of surfers, and hyperlinks represent the wires through which such net is weaved. Indeed, thanks to links, websites interrelate one with the other, making it possible for users to gather, with a simple click, information scattered around several locations in the web. Moreover, linking has become today a crucial tool for the provision of old as well as new services on the web. Think about search engines of all kinds whose functioning is based on the release of links leading users towards the webpages containing information matching the keywords inserted in the query. Last but not least, linking has become an ordinary communication practice in social platforms where users post all kinds of digital content they wish to share with friends through the technique of so called ‘inline links’. While the crucial role of linking within the structure and functioning of the overall internet is without doubt, linking practices have immediately attracted lawyers’ attention for their intrinsic capability of infringing third parties’ intellectual property rights of various kinds. As far as copyright is concerned, linking may present liability issues in several instances. On the one side, liability could be found when the link itself is infringing: for example, when the link (i.e.
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