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 Linking can constitute copyright infringement, US court says

Plaintiff Batesville Casket Company, Inc. sells caskets and other funeral products and services. Defendant Funeral Depot operates a website called through which it offers to sell caskets, including BatesvilleŽ caskets. Funeral Depot is not an authorized dealer of BatesvilleŽ caskets. If a customer orders a BatesvilleŽ casket from Funeral Depot, Funeral Depot arranges to buy the desired casket from an authorized dealer and arranges for shipment from that dealer to the local funeral home chosen by the customer.

Displaying at least some photographs of BatesvilleŽ caskets on its website, resulted in a cease-and-desist letter sent to Funeral Depot. Defendant removed the pictures and came up with a great idea: The website was modified so that small, "thumbnail" images of BatesvilleŽ caskets were linked to the appropriate casket pages on the Veterans Society website. Veterans Society is an authorized dealer of BatesvilleŽ caskets, who had a website, but at that time did not display images of caskets. Funeral Depot designed the Veteran's Society webpages. It paid for those web pages. And it controled those web pages and changes to them. The casket web pages displayed Funeral Depot's phone number rather than Veterans Society's number. Funeral Depot's control over the casket web pages was so complete that the owner of the Veterans Society was not aware of any changes to the casket portion of the website. Batesville Casket alleged copyright infringement and sued Funeral Depot before the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana.  

The court held that Veterans Society was authorized to use the photographs, but that the facts presented were unusual enough to take this case out of the general principle that linking does not amount to copying (see Ticketmaster v. The court held that linking to another website could indeed constitute copyright infringement where the defendant has "extensive involvement" in the content of the linked-to site.

  • Batesville Serv. Inc. v. Funeral Depot Inc., Decision of November 10, 2004, United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division   

    Copyright Law 

    inking to another website can constitute copyright infringement where the defendant has "extensive involvement" in the content of the linked-to site.



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