Is using legal?


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


The quotes read roughly translated from Danish

“It is unconditionally illegal to copy from a magazine and to upload it to a homepage ( 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.”


“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

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

Downloading a copy from 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 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 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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  1. […] Now a lawyer from one of Denmarks best IT-lawfirms – Martin von Haller Grønbæk – comment on wether the service is legal or […]

  2. mhg avatar

    @andreas ( You have correctly pointed out that making a digital copy of an analog work to use the copy for private use (as defined under the Danish copyright act) is not illegal. My point was that, if we assume that you make the copy with the intent of uploading it to then this is not for private use and therefore not legal.

  3. Ole Husgaard avatar

    I am commenting on this blog entry, as I do not think it has the same high quality we usually see in your writings.

    You write: “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.”

    As noted in comment 2 above, it is perfectly legal to make a digital copy for your own personal use of a magazine you own, as stated in article 12 in the danish copyright act. The fact that this digital copy later can be used illegally (by uploading it to, does not make the copy itself illegal.

    As for the question of the legality of simply reading an illegally copied magazine from, I respectfully disagree. You argument is probably based on the fact that the private reading of a copyrighted work is not regulated in the danish copyright act. But the question remains if this reading is possible without doing any temporary copying of parts of the copyrighted work. We cannot use the exceptions in chapter 2 of the law, as this requires a legal copy to take the copy from. When reading the illegal copy from, the illegal copy is technically broken into IP packets that are stored and forwarded in each router on the way to the reader’s PC. And our High Court has determined that this temporary copying of fragments of the copyrighted work in the routers on the net is illegal, if it comes from an illegal copy as is the case here.

    In the case of the technical temporary copying of fragments of illegal copies of copyrighted works in telecom routers, I argue that the Infosoc directive has not been properly implemented into danish law: In the danish copyright act, this is regulated in article 11a, which is placed in chapter two of the law. But article 11 states that copies cannot legally be made subject to the rules in chapter 2 of the law, if the copies are made from an illegal copy. But article 5.1(a) in the Infosoc directive does not allow this limitation. This is probably the reason why we in Denmark see case law regarding telecoms and copyright which differs substantially from the case law we see in other EU member countries although our legislation is supposed to be harmonized. It would be interesting if you could comment on this.

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