Should Copyright Law Also Cover Hyperlinks?

Should Copyright Law Also Cover Hyperlinks?

The US Copyright Office recently proposed a seemingly small addition to copyright law that bears some huge implications. It wants to enable copyright holders to protect unauthorised versions of their work from hyperlinks. You read that right: It could soon be illegal simply to link to certain content.

Think about that for a second. Let’s say you find a YouTube video that uses some random Miley Cyrus song as a soundtrack, but the maker of the video never got permission to use the song. You link to that video in a blog post. Boom — you just broke the law.

In fact, this very law could be applied in the lawsuit Quentin Tarantino filed against Gawker Media for linking to a leaked script. Of course, advocates for a free and open web do not like this idea at all. The Digital Public Library of America wrote in a blog post, “We hope you’ll agree that linking is an essential — perhaps the essential — element of the open web, and that we must work together to keep that option fully available to us all.” They make a good case.

What do you think? Should copyright cover hyperlinks? Is copyright — a century-old solution to intellectual property protection — even relevant any more? Or should we adopt a more modern system, like Creative Commons licences? Talk it out in the comments.

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