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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Should Linking To Copyrighted Material Be Illegal? - WebProNews

Should Linking To Copyrighted Material Be Illegal?

Despite how you feel on the matter, online piracy is illegal. Various courts throughout the country have said again and again that uploading pirated works on the Internet for others to download is illegal. The copyright lobby hasn’t really done much about it in recent years after finding out that suing everybody wasn’t good for their image. There is, however, a new war that the copyright lobby is waging that’s far more murky in its legality.

The courts are now having to deal with the issue of linking to content that may be illegal. Copyright law has generally been applied to those who host the content themselves. Now the law is being applied to sites that host zero content, but rather link to content on other Web sites. That’s where the case of Anton Vickerman comes in.

Should linking to copyrighted material be illegal? Where do we draw the line in copyright law? Let us know in the comments.

It was reported Monday that Vickerman was convicted on two counts of conspiracy to defraud. He now stands to serve four years in prison for running The Web site hosted links to content off site – both legal and illegal. He was said to have made £250,000 through advertisements on the site in 2008.

The interesting part is that Vickerman could not be charged for copyright violation. The prosecution had to go with charges of conspiracy to facilitate copyright infringement. Facilitating copyright infringement is a hard sell in most courts because most people charged with the crime usually aren’t aware that the content they’re linking to illegal.

Unfortunately for Vickerman, he sold advertisements on his Web site. The mere fact that he made money by linking to this illegal content is what doomed him in the first place. The prosecution stated that Vickerman’s Web site “was created specifically to make money from criminal activity.” The defense obviously argued that this was not the case, but it’s hard to argue with the £250,000 made over the course of a year. That’s obviously more than what running a link aggregator would cost.

It causes one to think if the result would have been the same if Vicerkman had made no money off of the site. There are plenty of other sites out there that only link to illegal content, but make no money from it. They pay for the servers out of their own pocket or with donations from users. It seems to be a legal gray area that only becomes criminal activity once the site owner starts to make money off of it.

Vickerman isn’t the only UK resident who is facing charges over linking to illegal content, nor is he the most well known. We’ve covered the extradition case of Richard O’Dwyer extensively over the past year and it’s far messier than Vickerman’s case ever was.


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