Linking to an illegal site?

[Keyword: ]. It’s a perennial problem of online journalism. You are reporting on an illegal or potentially illegal activity: do you link to the illegal website? The story is taken up:

“In the middle of January 2005 heise online had reported on a new version of the software “AnyDVD” by Slysoft. According to Slysoft AnyDVD was said not only to be capable of removing CSS protection, but also of cracking a further three copy protection mechanisms for DVDs. The report by heise online critically assessed the statements made by the software manufacturer. The music industry association IFPI claimed that parts of the text amounted to advertising or to a set of instructions on how to pirate copies of DVDs, especially given the fact that the original version of the article contained a hyperlink to the homepage of the software manufacturer.

“Through temporary injunctions eight companies of the music industry attempted to ban the publication of the article. The first-instance District Court in Munich ruled that though heise online was entitled to keep the text online in its original form, it had to remove the hyperlink to Slysoft. Both parties to the dispute appealed the decision. On July 28 the OLG Munich affirmed the decision of the lower court and rejected the motions of appeal.”

Now the site is to file a “constitutional complaint” against the decision by the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Munich.

“Christian Persson, editor-in-chief of heise online and of c’t Magazine, likewise published by Heise Zeitschriften Verlag, said … The freedom of the press would be considerably curtailed if now in each instance editors would have to check whether a hyperlink to any outside item of content infringed the rights of any third party … As a consequence, because fewer hyperlinks would be inserted, the quality of online reporting would suffer.”

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