Although content is freely available on the internet users should still get consent from the person originally putting the content online, Europe’s top court has ruled. The ruling is welcomed by Europe's creative industries, which complain online platforms deny publishers, broadcasters and artists of their revenues.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ was ruling on the case of a high school student in Germany who downloaded a photograph of Cordoba from a travel website to illustrate a presentation which was subsequently published on the school website. Photographer Dirk Renckhoff sued the city of Waltrop and North Rhine-Westphalia for copyright infringement and 400 euros in damages. A German court sought guidance from the ECJ. Judges said, ‘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. They added, ‘by posting on the internet, the photograph is made available to a new public.’
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. The judges explained EU copyright legislation ‘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 case is C-161/17 Land Nordrhein-Westfalen v Dirk Renckhoff.