The Court of Justice of the European Union has handed down a ruling this week that was an important one for the internet as we know it. The court was hearing a case that had to do with whether or not the act of hyperlinking to content online constituted copyright infringement. If the court had ruled that linking to content was in fact copyright infringement, it would have changed the internet in a fundamental way.
Thankfully, the EU court ruled that hyperlinking to freely available content on the web isn’t copyright infringement. The case that the Court of Justice for the EU ruled on was referred to it by Sweden’s Court of Appeal.
The case focused on a company known as Retriever Sverige AB, a company that has a subscription service that links to other content available freely on the internet. Retriever didn’t think that the people who wrote the stories it linked to were due any money for it simply linking to the content. The writers of the content the company linked to thought they should be paid.
The writers took the case to the Stockholm District Court and lost in 2010. They made an appeal after that loss and the appeals court kicked it to the EU court for help. The EU court ruled in a nutshell that making a clickable link to content on another website does not lead to the works being communicated to a new public. Since the access on the sites linked to wasn’t protected by any pay gates or other restrictive measures, anyone could get access to them in the courts eyes. However, had the linking to content bypassed any restrictive measures on the content host websites that would have been copyright infringement.