There is a misconception among Internet users that terrestrial copyright laws do not apply in the electronic environment. This essay describes the operation of UK copyright legislation in web pages and intranets. (page 2 of 5)

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Economic rights protect a work with regards to: Copying for example photocopying, reproduction by hand; creation of digital copies onto any format including floppy disk, CD-ROM, DVD, hard disk or the RAM of a computer; publishing, renting or lending; broadcasting or performing in public and also the alteration of computer programmes into different code. If any of these acts are carried out on the whole or a substantial part of a copyrighted work without the consent of the copyright owner and none of the exceptions to copyright apply, then copyright is infringed. What constitutes a "substantial" part is very subjective and in legal disputes it is really a matter for the judges to decide. The government states that a "substantial part" has been interpreted by the courts as "a qualitatively significant part of a work even where this is not a large part of the work." (Intellectual-Property, 2001.)

If infringement takes place then it is left to the discretion of the copyright owner as to what action should be taken. It would make sense financially if the dispute could be settled without the commencement of legal proceedings but if the case could not be resolved out of court, then a remedy could be found in court. Possible solutions include: court injunctions, damages and the destruction of the offending items. Infringement cases on the Web and on intranets have been exacerbated by the ability to link from one web site to another. Although linking itself does not constitute copying, problems have arisen due to the fact that hyperlinks can be established that give no indication as to where they lead. Whilst linking to another company's homepage is perfectly lawful, linking to other pages, known as "deep linking" has resulted in legal wranglings.

Manches, (2001) cite the case of PCM v Kranten.com, where it was alleged, the deep linking to news articles had infringed the copyright of the newspaper. The case was over-ruled however on the grounds that the links did not constitute copying. Under Dutch law, the copying of the news headlines that formed the wording of the hyperlinks was exempt from copyright infringement. Under UK law, the copying of headlines in this way may have been construed as copyright infringement. There are numerous cases where the plaintiff has raised the issue of linking. Ticketmaster claimed copyright infringement against Tickets.com for the deep links to its web pages that by-passed certain terms and conditions. The previous year, Ticketmaster agreed to an out-of-court settlement when it complained that the deep linking by Microsoft was "devaluing" the plaintiff's site (Nimmo, 2000).

The inappropriate use of framing has resulted in similar cases. Manches (2001) cite the case of Total News v the Washington Post in which Total News linked to the pages of the Washington Post but displayed those pages in frames that hid the site's advertisements. Because the advertisements were a source of revenue for the Washington Post, the newspaper claimed infringement. The case was settled on the terms that Total News should be allowed to link but not to frame. The first UK wrangle over deep linking was the case of the Shetland Times v the Shetland News. In which the Shetland Times claimed copyright infringement for links that by-passed its homepage and accompanying advertisements. The court outcome, which sided with the Shetland Times "caused reverberations throughout the Internet world" (Nimmo, 2000).

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Publication Date: Monday 14th July, 2003
Author: Ukwdc View profile

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