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Creative Commons license upheld by European court

In what legal experts call a "significant development" in copyright law, European court rules a Creative Commons license is binding.
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor on

A court in the Netherlands has ruled that a Creative Commons license is binding, in a case brought against a Dutch gossip magazine by an ex-MTV star.

This is one of the first times that the license--which offers more flexibility than traditional copyright licenses--has been tested in a court of law, according to legal Web site Groklaw.

"The Creative Commons licenses are quite new, so there has been very little in the way of case law so far, so this is a significant development," Groklaw reported.

Former MTV VJ Adam Curry sued Weekend, a Dutch gossip magazine, for copyright infringement after the magazine published photos of Curry's daughter without his authorization. The photos, which Curry had posted on the Flickr photo-sharing site, were covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license, which states that while the licensed content can be used freely for noncommercial purposes as long as the source is made clear, the content cannot be used for commercial purposes unless the creator of the content agrees to waive the conditions.

The court ruled that Weekend must not use Curry's pictures again or it would face fines of 1,000 euros (about US$1,200) for each photo used without permission, Curry said in his blog.

Audax, the publisher of Weekend, had argued that it was misled by the notice posted on Flickr near Curry's photos stating that they were "public" and that the link to the license was not obvious. But the court rejected this defense, stating that Audax should have carried out due diligence before publishing the photos, according to Creative Commons Canada, which published a translation of the court ruling.

Creative Commons Canada said the ruling is important as it makes it clear that it is the user's responsibility to find out about and adhere to the license.

"The Dutch Court's decision is especially noteworthy because it confirms that the conditions of a Creative Commons license automatically apply to the content licensed under it, and bind users of such content even without expressly agreeing to, or having knowledge of, the conditions of the license," said the organization.

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