Amsterdam court verdict supports deep linking

Out-Law News | 28 Aug 2000 | 12:00 am | 1 min. read

A court in Amsterdam has ruled in favour of a web site that linked to specific pages of other web sites against the will of the site owners, a procedure known as deep linking.

PCM, one of the largest newspaper groups in the Netherlands had sought a court order against, a company with a web site consisting mainly of news headlines that link directly to the stories on the web sites of newspapers. The publishers objected because these links would bypass the homepage of the newspapers, the page that would normally carry the newspaper’s branding and advertising. successfully argued that such deep linking to other sites is a widespread and commonly accepted practice on the internet and because, as in UK law, news articles can be copied for the purpose of reporting current events, provided there is sufficient acknowledgement.

PCM has indicated that it will not appeal the court’s ruling, although it has until 5th September to do so.

The verdict is the first time a European court has accepted deep linking, although it has previously been allowed by a number of US courts. In Scotland, the same question arose in 1997 when The Shetland Times took action against the operator of a news reporting service called The Shetland News. However, that case was settled between the parties before the court could decide on the matter.

The decision by PCM to accept the court’s decision means that the significance of the judgement is unlikely to extend to other parts of Europe. There are two higher Dutch courts in which an appeal should have been heard before the case could reach the authoritative European Court of Justice.

It is still possible that a court elsewhere if faced with the same issues could be influenced by the PCM case, but its effect will not be binding. In addition, a case of deep linking that cannot rely on the copyright law exception for news reporting might see a different result.