Liability for Disseminating in the Digital Age: Copyright Law and Hyperlinking on the World Wide Web

Master Thesis

2021

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Hyperlinks serve as essential tools to communicate and disseminate information on the World Wide Web. As one commentator stated: ‘without hyperlinks, the web would be like a library without a catalogue: full of information, but with no sure means of finding it'.1 Unfortunately, hyperlinks may also be utilised to enable copyright infringement.2 Copyright protected works may be disseminated on the internet without the authorisation of the copyright owner using hyperlinks. Accordingly, effective legal rules are necessary to not only safeguards the rights of copyright owners but to also preserve the fluid communication and dissemination of information on the internet. The dissertation will have the aim of analysing the approaches taken by the European Union's (EU) courts and the Unites states of America's (US) courts in dealing with hyperlinking to copyright protected works. The terms necessary for the proper understanding of the dissertation will be first outlined. It will then be determined if the EU originally offered a satisfactory solution to the hyperlinking issue. Thereafter, it will be explored if the EU currently effectively addresses the legal treatment of hyperlinking under copyright law. The approach taken by the US will then be critically analysed. Moreover, the dissertation will also have the goal of recommending how these jurisdictions should refine their laws to tackle future hyperlinking cases in an effective manner. Finally, it will be proposed which approach SA should favor when dealing with hyperlinking to copyright protected works.
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