Playboy wins case against website over unauthorised links to published images

Playboy has got the better of a website in a legal fight for posting without permission links to images published in the men's magazine.

The decision yesterday could have far wider consequences across the internet, according to commentators.

The EU top court decided that posting such links infringed copyright when the website doing it sought to profit from pictures published without permission.

Sanoma, Playboy's Dutch publisher had sought to get website GeenStijl, which described itself among the most visited news websites in the Netherlands, remove a web link to photos of a TV celebrity Britt Dekker which were posted illegally.

"It is undisputed that GS Media (which owns GreenStijl) provided the hyperlinks to the files containing the photos for profit and that Sanoma had not authorized the publication of those photos on the internet," the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in a statement.

"When hyperlinks are posted for profit, it may be expected that the person who posted such a link should carry out the checks necessary to ensure that the work concerned is not illegally published."

According to GS Media, the ruling came as a blow to press freedom.

"If commercial media companies - such as GeenStijl -- can no longer freely and fearlessly hyperlink it will be difficult to report on newsworthy new questions, leaked information and internal struggles and unsecure networks in large companies," it said on GeenStijl's website.

''An eye on profit, that's something dirty, according to the European clowns,'' GeenStijl said in a statement on its website. ''The consequence is that from now on, you always run the risk of being sued, just for placing a hyperlink."

The ruling comes as a shot in the arm for publishers and other copyright owners fighting internet sites that linked to or republished their content without permission, according to commentators.