Is using Mygazines.com legal?

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I was quoted on 2 September 2008 in the Danish tabloid ”Ekstra Bladet” in an article regarding the service www.mygazines.com through which it is possible to read articles from some of the world’s popular magazines, e g Esquire, Sports Illustrated and Newsweek.

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The quotes read roughly translated from Danish

“It is unconditionally illegal to copy from a magazine and to upload it to a homepage (www.mygazine.com). But it is subject to discussion whether it is also illegal to download it. As a point of departure my opinion is that it is illegal to read (illelgay uploaded) magazines on the internet.”

and

“I will also add that the risk for individuals to be caught in the act of reading the magazines on the internet is discussable. I doubt that this can be traced. As a user, you probably to a large degree have to worry yourself with the moral aspects of breaking copyright law.”

The quotes above do not – as it is usually the case – reflect any more in-depth legal analysis of the problem from my side. The questions that I were asked during the interview for the newspaper were basically whether uploading and/or using the Mygazine service was illegal from the perspective of an ordinary Danish user.

It is beyond doubt that first it is a violation of Danish copyright law, if a Danish individual makes a copy of copyright protected materials such as the magazines mentioned above without the permission of the copyright holder. Furthermore it is a violation, if the person uploads the illegal copy to Mygazines.com.

In fact we are talking about two violations. First an illegal digitised copy from the magazine acquired in an analogue format. This is the case regardless of whether the copy is for the individual’s own use or for distribution to others. Second the illegal digital copying that takes places when uploading to Mygazines.com.

Downloading a copy from Mygazines.com of a magazine that is illegally copied and uploaded to the website also constitutes a violation of Danish copyright law. In my opinion there is no question that a Danish individual who downloads such a copy is acting in bad faith with respect to whether the copy is illegally copied and uploaded in the first place. The individual will be deemed as having knowledge about the illegal activity of the uploader in say Italy, US or Sweden.

The interesting question is however whether just reading a copy at Mygazines.com of an illegally uploaded copy of a magazine constitutes a violation of Danish copyright law. If the technique or the application by which the visitors to the website read the magazine is considered as the equivalent of accessing audio or video material by streaming material, reading the magazine will probably not be considered illegal under Danish copyright law.

Or as Kasper Heine, my colleague at Bender von Haller Dragsted, did put it when I asked on his take on the question:

“As long as reading the articles from Mygazine.com on your computer through your browser does not mean that you are making a copy of the article, it is difficult to see how you should be violating the right owners copyright under Danish law.”

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