Linking to a Website Does Not Infringe Copyright, Says European Court

Linking to a website does not infringe copyright and thus will not require prior consent from authors before linking the content.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that linking to a website does not infringe copyright and thus will not require prior consent from authors before linking the content.

In the Svensson v Retriever Sverige AB case, journalists at Svensson have accused the news aggregator company, Retriever Sverige, of infringing their copyright by posting links of the articles published on the website Göteborgs-Posten without asking for their permission. The journalists demanded Retriever Sverige to compensate for listing the links to their articles.

However, the court considered that the links published by Retriever Sverige does not conflict with the right of ‘communication to the public’ (Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29) meaning that the publication of the links does not target at a new public who are the initial audience of the communication.

Therefore, the court considered that there was no new public in the case and that journalists’ authorisation was not required for the communication to the public at stake.

The court however pointed out that where a clickable link made it possible for users of the site on which that link appeared to circumvent restrictions put in place by another site, the link constituted an intervention without which some users would not be able to access the works transmitted. In that situation all those users must be deemed to be a new public and accordingly rightholders’ authorisation would be required for such a communication to the public.