Web Links to Free Content Are Legal, EU’s Top Court Says

Websites can link to freely available online content without seeking permission from the copyright owner, the European Union’s highest court said.

Website owners “may, without the authorization of the copyright holders, redirect Internet users via hyperlinks, to protected works available on a freely accessible basis on another site,” the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg said in a statement today. “The position would be different” for links that circumvent a paywall, it said.

The court was asked to rule on dispute in Sweden between journalists and a local company that provided hyperlinks directly to news articles published for free on the website of newspaper Goeteborgs-Posten. A Swedish court sought EU legal guidance on whether such links to freely accessible content can be considered a copyright violation under EU law.

Granting copyright protection to hyperlinks “would essentially break the Internet as we know it,” said Jakob Kucharczyk, a Brussels-based director at the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

“We’re glad that Internet users will continue to be able to share and refer to content that is freely available on the Internet without breaking copyright rules,” Kucharczyk said in an e-mailed statement

The case is: C-466/12, Nils Svensson, Sten Sjoegren, Madelaine Sahlman, Pia Gadd v. Retriever Sverige AB.

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