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Case law: Online content can be used by third parties on their websites without permission if 'framed'

Owners of copyright in online content such as videos should consider taking steps to protect others from displaying it on their websites without permission, following a European Court of Justice ruling that 'framing' other people's content does not breach their copyright.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - February 2015

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

Two websites displayed a video on YouTube by 'framing' it – ie by displaying it within a frame on their website. This meant that it appeared to viewers as if it was part of that website, but was actually being watched on YouTube. This can be accomplished without the video being copied or reproduced on the website's own servers.

The owner of the copyright in the video, a water filter manufacturer, claimed that this infringed its copyright. The website owners, who were two distributors of the owner's products, claimed that as framing did not involve copying the video, there was no infringement.

The European Court of Justice ruled that framing someone else's content did not breach copyright because no copying was involved, provided the content had originally been published on the internet for access by all internet users. It made no difference in this case that the video had been posted on Youtube without the owner's permission.

The effect is that anything you make generally available online can be framed and displayed by someone else on their website, making it look as if it is their own content.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendations

  • Owners of online content who do not want third parties to be able to display that content on their websites using framing, must ensure it is not made generally available on the internet and/or use technological means to prevent others from being able to frame it on their sites - for example, by using paywalls.
Case ref: BestWater International GmbH v Michael Mebes, Stefan Potsch, case no. C 348/13

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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