Linking Is Not Copyright Infringement, Boing Boing Tells Court

The popular blog Boing Boing has asked a federal court in California to drop the copyright infringement lawsuit filed against it by Playboy. With help from the EFF, Boing Boing argues that its article linking to an archive of hundreds of centerfold playmates is clearly fair use. Or else it will be "the end of the web as we know it," the blog warns.

Late last year Playboy sued the popular blog Boing Boing for publishing an article that linked to an archive of every playmate centerfold till then.

“Kind of amazing to see how our standards of hotness, and the art of commercial erotic photography, have changed over time,” Boing Boing’s Xena Jardin commented.

Playboy, instead, was amazed that infringing copies of their work were being shared in public. While Boing Boing didn’t upload or store the images in question, the publisher took the case to court.

The blog’s parent company Happy Mutants was accused of various counts of copyright infringement, with Playboy claiming that it exploited their playmates’ images for commercial purposes.

Boing Boing sees things differently. With help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it has filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that hyperlinking is not copyright infringement.

“This lawsuit is frankly mystifying. Playboy’s theory of liability seems to be that it is illegal to link to material posted by others on the web — an act performed daily by hundreds of millions of users of Facebook and Twitter, and by journalists like the ones in Playboy’s crosshairs here,” they write.

The article in question

The defense points out that Playboy’s complaint fails to state a claim for direct or contributory copyright infringement. In addition, it argues that this type of reporting should be seen as fair use.

“Boing Boing’s reporting and commenting on the Playboy photos is protected by copyright’s fair use doctrine,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer says, commenting on the case.

“We’re asking the court to dismiss this deeply flawed lawsuit. Journalists, scientists, researchers, and everyday people on the web have the right to link to material, even copyrighted material, without having to worry about getting sued.”

The lawsuit shares a lot of similarities with the case between Dutch blog GeenStijl and local Playboy publisher Sanoma. That high-profile case went all the way to the European Court of Justice.

The highest European court eventually decided that hyperlinks to infringing works are to be considered a ‘communication to the public,’ and that a commercial publication can indeed be held liable for copyright infringement.

Boing Boing hopes that US Courts will see things differently, or it might be “the end of the web as we know it.”

“The world can’t afford a judgment against us in this case — it would end the web as we know it, threatening everyone who publishes online, from us five weirdos in our basements to multimillion-dollar, globe-spanning publishing empires like Playboy,” Boing Boing writes.

A copy of Boing Boing’s memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss is available here (pdf). The original Playboy complaint can be found here (pdf).

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