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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Australian Court Rules Against Linking; Search Engines Don't Need To Panic

Australian court rules
against MP3 link site
from News.com covers how an Australian court has
decided that linking to some content can be illegal, in the right circumstances.
In the right circumstances! That part is important. It’s easy to read the
headline and come away thinking that search engines (or anyone, potentially) are
going to find life much harder in Australia if they are deemed to be illegally
linking to content such as music or articles posted online without a content
owners permission. However, I think the case looks pretty specific to this
particular MP3 search site, which the court felt was established almost to
pretend it couldn’t control linking to material posted without permission.

From the News.com story:

"A principal purpose of the Web site was to enable infringing copies of the
downloaded sound recordings to be made," Judge Susan Kenny wrote in her
opinion. "The fact that the Web site also carried a warning that some
downloading could be illegal did not lessen the force of the invitation."

As for search engines, they seem to get a pass given they were not created
specifically to encourage what the court felt was illegal music downloads:

Cooper, a resident of the state of Queensland, had argued that he had no
power to prevent illegal copying because users could "automatically" add links
to the site without his control. He likened his site to Google’s search engine
as a mechanism for pointing users to other sites–an analogy that one judge
deemed "unhelpful," in part because Google was not designed exclusively to
facilitate music downloads. The opinion also noted that even the search giant
is not always free to link to everything it wishes.

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