Judge: Links Without Copyright Holders Permission Unlawful

Michael Hayes
DALLAS — In an unusual decision, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Lindsay granted a preliminary injunction against a man who operated Supercrosslive.com, saying that links between that site and live webcasts of motorcycle racing events made without the copyright holders permission were unlawful.

Robert Davis, who represented himself, failed to convince Lindsay that his racing site was not operating in violation of intellectual property laws by linking to webcasts copyrighted by the plaintiff — SFX Motor Sports.

SFX sued Davis is February, arguing that fans who go to its website see names and logos of sponsors, but users who access content via Davis’ link cannot see the logos of the companies that paid to advertise.

“The link Davis provides on his website is not a ‘fair use’ of copyright material,” Lindsay said.

The question of links and copyright laws has is not a new one, CNET News writer Declan McCullagh said.

In 2001, a federal appeals court ruled that a news organization could be barred from linking to software deemed illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because it could decrypt DVDs.

In 2000, a federal judge in California ruled that hyperlinks were permissible in a dispute between Ticketmaster and Tickets.com. That judge said hyperlinks were not in and of themselves violations of copyright law.

In the dispute between Davis and SFX, Lindsay appears to be the first judge to weigh in on whether links to webcasts violate copyright law, McCullagh said.

“SFX will likely suffer immediate and irreparable harm when the new racing season begins in mid-December 2006 if Davis is not enjoined from posting links to the live racing webcasts,” Lindsay said. “The court agrees that if Davis is not enjoined from providing unauthorized webcast links on his website, SFX will lose its ability to sell sponsorships or advertisement on the basis that it is the exclusive source of the webcasts, and such loss will cause irreparable harm.”