Is Linking Or Embedding Infringing Content Illegal?
from the the-next-legal-minefield dept
This opens up quite a question about legal liability. The sites claim that they're not liable at all, since they're not hosting any infringing content at all. In fact, embedding a video is just sticking some code on your site that points to another server -- so you can make a reasonable argument that they're not actually infringing on copyright. The article quotes someone who disagrees, though he doesn't explain why. It's likely that he means that under the Grokster decision, they could be found guilty of "inducing" infringement, which does seem likely. However, things get even trickier if you take it one step further. At the end of the article, they mention a site called QuicksilverScreen, that doesn't embed videos, but simply links to DailyMotion, Google Video or YouTube, depending on who's hosting the content they want to provide (basically episodes of lots of TV shows). Soon after the article came out, it appears that Fox sent off a cease & desist letter to QuicksilverScreen (found via Digg). At this point, the legal situation becomes even fuzzier. QuicksilverScreen isn't hosting the videos. They're not even embedding the videos in their site. They're simply linking to them. You would think that shouldn't be illegal at all, but again, you have the possibility of the new standard of "inducing infringement" coming into play. There's also famous 2600 case that suggested there are situations where linking to illegal content would also be illegal.
This is worrisome for a variety of reasons. First of all, you have no control over the content you've linked to. You often have no idea of the legality of that content and it's possible that the destination content could change at any time. You would hope that courts would take that into account, but it certainly seems like a risk. However, if you take this to a logical extreme, it gets ridiculous. If it's illegal to link to illegal content, then you've effectively said that Google is illegal. And where is the limit? Above, I link to the QuicksilverScreen site, to their posting of the cease & desist from Fox. From that page, you can easily click through to videos of lots of TV shows hosted on other sites. Have we broken the law by linking to them as well? Has Forbes broken the law, since they linked to QuicksilverScreen in their article as well? It opens up a pretty dangerous can of worms when you outlaw linking to any type of content, rather than focus on those who actually have uploaded the content.