Copyright & thumbnails in screenshot

Way back in 2008 I wrote about a copyright case that was decided at the Swedish Court of Appeal (Svea Hovrätt).

The case (2008-07-01, FT 685-08) concerned the question whether a screendump of one web page (containing pictures) being displayed on another web page constitued a violation of copyright of the pictures.

The court found that, first of all, the pictures displayed on the webpage which was pictured and displayed on another web page were not protected under 1§ of the Swedish Copyright Act (English version Pdf) but under Photolaw 49 a§ Swedish Copyright Act.

This difference is a remnant of the time when photographs were not covered by Copyright law at all. Today photographs are covered by Copyright law but the length of protection differs from other typical works protected under copyright law.

Since the images were small and hardly distinguishable to the naked eye they made up an unessential part of the the exception in 20a§ is applicable. According to this exception there is no need for permission to use works which appear in the background or are an non-essential part of the picture.

But last week the Swedish Supreme Court decided to go another way and decided that the use of a screenshot which contains small photographs is a copyright violation of the photographer and not covered by fair use. The decision T 3440-08 is available in Swedish from the Supreme Courts website.

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