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 Chilling Effects Clearinghouse > Linking > Notices > Wiley asserts link liability (NoticeID 7192, http://chillingeffects.org/N/7192) Printer-friendly version

Wiley asserts link liability

April 04, 2007

 

Sender Information:
John Wiley & Sons
Sent by: [Private]
[Private]
Hoboken, NJ 07030-, US

Recipient Information:
[Private]
ChemRefer Limited
Sheffield, S17 4LH, UK


Sent via: postal mail
Re:

Dear Mr Griffiths,

I am [personal information] for the scientific publishing business of John Wiley & Sons. We were recently notified of your site, which provides links to articles on chemistry that have been posted on the web.

While we support efforts to increase discoverability, we are compelled to inform you that many of the articles to which you link are in fact illegally posted, and that by linking to them, your site may be accused of contributory infringement.

For convenience, I have attached to the letter (Annex A) a list of illegal copies of our articles to which your site linked as of March 1. Generally, Wiley's copyright policy does not allow for the posting of final articles in PDF on author or third-party sites. We do, however, allow authors to self-archive non-final versions. If you wish to check with us as to whether a copy is authorized prior to linking, we would be happy to check. In the meantime, please disable the links, and please refrain from creating links to final articles posted on the web.

This letter is without prejudice.

Yours sincerely,

[Signature]

[List of allegedly illegal copies not submitted to ChillingEffects.org]

 
FAQ: Questions and Answers

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Question: What is a hyperlink?

Answer: Unless you typed the URL directly into your web browser, you probably followed a hyperlink to get to this page. A hyperlink is a location reference that the web browser interprets, often by underlining the text in blue, to "link" to another information resource when clicked. In HTML (HyperText Markup Language, the code used to write web pages), a hyperlink looks like this: link


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Question: What kinds of things are copyrightable?

Answer: In order for material to be copyrightable, it must be original and must be in a fixed medium.

Only material that originated with the author can support a copyright. Items from the public domain which appear in a work, as well as work borrowed from others, cannot be the subject of an infringement claim. Also, certain stock material might not be copyrightable, such as footage that indicates a location like the standard shots of San Francisco in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Also exempted are stock characters like the noisy punk rocker who gets the Vulcan death grip in Star Trek IV.

The requirement that works be in a fixed medium leaves out certain forms of expression, most notably choreography and oral performances such as speeches. For instance, if I perform a Klingon death wail in a local park, my performance is not copyrightable. However, if I film the performance, then the film is copyrightable.

Single words and short phrases are generally not protected by copyright, even when the name has been "coined" or newly-created by the mark owner. Logos that include original design elements can be protected under copyright or under trademark. Otherwise, words, phrases and titles may be protected only by trademark, however.


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Question: What rights are protected by copyright law?

Answer: The purpose of copyright law is to encourage creative work by granting a temporary monopoly in an author's original creations. This monopoly takes the form of six rights in areas where the author retains exclusive control. These rights are:

(1) the right of reproduction (i.e., copying),
(2) the right to create derivative works,
(3) the right to distribution,
(4) the right to performance,
(5) the right to display, and
(6) the digital transmission performance right.

The law of copyright protects the first two rights in both private and public contexts, whereas an author can only restrict the last four rights in the public sphere. Claims of infringement must show that the defendant exercised one of these rights. For example, if I create unauthorized videotape copies of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and distribute them to strangers on the street, then I have infringed both the copyright holder's rights of reproduction and distribution. If I merely re-enact The Wrath of Khan for my family in my home, then I have not infringed on the copyright. Names, ideas and facts are not protected by copyright.

Trademark law, in contrast, is designed to protect consumers from confusion as to the source of goods (as well as to protect the trademark owner's market). To this end, the law gives the owner of a registered trademark the right to use the mark in commerce without confusion. If someone introduces a trademark into the market that is likely to cause confusion, then the newer mark infringes on the older one. The laws of trademark infringement and dilution protect against this likelihood of confusion. Trademark protects names, images and short phrases.

Infringement protects against confusion about the origin of goods. The plaintiff in an infringement suit must show that defendant's use of the mark is likely to cause such a confusion. For instance, if I were an unscrupulous manufacturer, I might attempt to capitalize on the fame of Star Trek by creating a line of 'Spock Activewear.' If consumers could reasonably believe that my activewear was produced or endorsed by the owners of the Spock trademark, then I would be liable for infringement.

The law of trademark dilution protects against confusion concerning the character of a registered trademark. Suppose I created a semi-automatic assault rifle and marketed it as 'The Lt. Uhura 5000.' Even if consumers could not reasonably believe that the Star Trek trademark holders produced this firearm, the trademark holders could claim that my use of their mark harmed the family-oriented character of their mark. I would be liable for dilution.


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Question: What is copyright infringement? Are there any defenses?

Answer: Infringement occurs whenever someone who is not the copyright holder (or a licensee of the copyright holder) exercises one of the exclusive rights listed above.

The most common defense to an infringement claim is "fair use," a doctrine that allows people to use copyrighted material without permission in certain situations, such as quotations in a book review. To evaluate fair use of copyrighted material, the courts consider four factors:


  1. the purpose and character of the use
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality of copying, and
  4. the market effect.

(17 U.S.C. 107)

The most significant factor in this analysis is the fourth, effect on the market. If a copier's use supplants demand for the original work, then it will be very difficult for him or her to claim fair use. On the other hand, if the use does not compete with the original, for example because it is a parody, criticism, or news report, it is more likely to be permitted as "fair use."

Trademarks are generally subject to fair use in two situations: First, advertisers and other speakers are allowed to use a competitor's trademark when referring to that competitor's product ("nominative use"). Second, the law protects "fair comment," for instance, in parody.


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Question: If a hyperlink is just a location pointer, how can it be illegal?

Answer: It probably isn't, however, a few courts have now held that a hyperlink violates the law if it points to illegal material with the purpose of disseminating that illegal material:

  • In the DeCSS case, Universal v. Reimerdes, the court barred 2600 Magazine from posting hyperlinks to DeCSS code because it found the magazine had linked for the purpose of disseminating a circumvention device. (See Anticircumvention (DMCA).) The court ruled that it could regulate the link because of its "function," even if the link was also speech.
  • In another case, Intellectual Reserve v. Utah Lighthouse Ministry, a Utah court found that linking to unauthorized copies of a text might be a contributory infringement of the work's copyright. (The defendant in that case had previously posted unauthorized copies on its own site, then replaced the copies with hyperlinks to other sites.)
By contrast, the court in Ticketmaster v. Tickets.com found that links were not infringements of copyright.

Like anything else on a website, a hyperlink could also be problematic if it misrepresents something about the website. For example, if the link and surrounding text falsely stated that a website is affiliated with another site or sponsored by the linked company, it might be false advertising or defamation.

Finally, post-Grokster, a hyperlink might be argued to induce copyright infringement, if the link were made knowing that the linked-to material was infringing and with the intent of inducing people to follow the link and infringe copyright.

In most cases, however, simple linking is unlikely to violate the law.


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Question: What is third-party liability, also known as "secondary liability"?

Answer: The concept of third party liability refers, as the name implies, to situations in which responsibility for harm can be placed on a party in addition to the one that actually caused the injury. The most common example comes from tort law: a customer in a grocery store drops a bottle of wine and another customer slips on the puddle and injures himself; he may bring an action for negligence against the customer who dropped the bottle and against the owner of the grocery store. Under the common law doctrine of third-party liability, a plaintiff must show not only that an injury actually occurred, but also (in most cases) that some sort of connection existed between the third party and the person who actually caused the injury.

As such the concept of third-party liability is often divided into two different types: contributory infringement and vicarious liability. Typically, contributory infringement exists when the third party either assists in the commission of the act which causes the injury, or simply induces the primary party to do so commit the act which caused the injury. (See What is contributory infringement?.) Vicarious liability often requires the third party to have exerted some form of control over the primary party


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Question: What is contributory infringement?

Answer: The other form of indirect infringement, contributory infringement, requires (1) knowledge of the infringing activity and (2) a material contribution -- actual assistance or inducement -- to the alleged piracy.

Posting access codes from authorized copies of software, serial numbers, or other tools to assist in accessing such software may subject you to liability. Providing a forum for uploading and downloading any copyrighted file or cracker utility may also be contributory infringement. Even though you may not actually make software directly available on your site, providing assistance (or supporting a forum in which others may provide assistance) in locating unauthorized copies of software, links to download sites, server space, or support for sites that do the above may contributorily infringe.

To succeed on a contributory infringement claim, the copyright owner must show that the webmaster or service provider actually knew or should have known of the infringing activity.


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Question: Do I need permission to link to someone else's site?

Answer: In general, if someone is making a website publicly available, others may freely link to it. That open linking is what makes the web a "web."


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Question: What is fair use?

Answer: Fair use is an affirmative defense that can be raised by an individual who is sued for copyright infringement (or an individual against whom a claim of copyright infringement is alleged). See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994). Once the plaintiff has proven that his or her copyright was infringed upon, the burden lies with the defendant who invokes the fair use defense to prove that her or his use of the copyrighted work of another should be legally permitted, notwithstanding the copyright owner's exclusive rights in her work.


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Question: What is the purpose of the fair use defense?

Answer: There is no easy answer to this question. However, one way to approach the question is to examine the purposes of the copyright laws.

The clause of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to enact copyright laws indicates that the purpose of the given power is to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts" by allowing authors to secure the exclusive rights in their works for "limited times." Thus, many see the Constitutional scheme behind copyright as a kind of balance between (1) forming incentives for authors to create new works by giving them rights that will allow them to make money from their works, and (2) limiting the rights so that the works themselves are useful to the public and in turn advance the "progress of science and the useful arts."

Fair use fits into this scheme by giving the public the right to use copyrighted works in certain situations even though the author has exclusive rights. That is, in some circumstances, such as certain uses involving scholarship or research, the "progress" referred to in the Constitution is best promoted and the public is best served by allowing an unauthorized use of the copyrighted work. These uses are deemed fair because they are consistent with the power given to Congress to enact copyright laws.


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Question: Do I need permission from the copyright holder to make fair use?

Answer: No. If your use is fair, it is not an infringement of copyright -- even if it is without the authorization of the copyright holder. Indeed, fair use is especially important to protect uses a copyright holder would not approve, such as criticism or parodies. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 US 569 (1994).


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