Careful when publishing copyrighted content on the websites

The Court of Justice of the European Union has decided it is prohibited to publish photographs on the internet, which had already been published on another website with the consent of the copyright holder, without (further) consent of the copyright holder.


Photographer D. Renckhoff has given consent regarding the use of his photograph on a travel website. After the photograph was published on this website, a high school student in Germany used this photograph in her assignment, which was posted on the high school’s website. The student cited the website on which the photo was first published as her source. Despite this, Renckhoff sued the high school and later the Federal State of the North Rhine – Westphalia, for copyright violations.


On 7 August 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a judgment in a case C-161/17 where it explained that even if the published photo is copied to a private server, it is deemed a new communication of the photo to the public. Every reproduction or communication by a third party to the public (publication) of copyrighted material requires prior consent of its creator. As a result, in case the copyrighted work has already been published on a website, additional consent from the copyright holder is required for each subsequent publication.


The court also explained that additional consent is required because of the protection of the preventative right of the copyright holder, allowing them to require the cessation of the communication to the public, to demand that the content be removed from the website etc. At the same time, this position also protects the right of the copyright holder to demand an (adequate) reward for every subsequent use of his or her work.


We advise you to verify the source of the work and obtain necessary consent before publishing any copyrighted work. It is very common, especially abroad (but also in Slovenia), for the attorneys specialising in copyright to file claims for damages for the copyright violations against potential violators.

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