THE EUROPEAN Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that a website cannot be found to have infringed copyright for merely linking to content that is hosted elsewhere.
The Court of Justice of the European Union advised a Swedish court (PDF) that widely available content can be used by other websites, even when they are aggregators and it looks like they are publishing the content themselves.
The court settled the question for the Swedish Court of Appeal, where a case involved local journalists and aggregation company Retriever Sverige. The latter is a media monitor and aggregates content from the television, magazines and, of course, websites.
Retriever Sverige did not ask for permission to link to some copy, and so some complaining journalists demanded to be compensated. They took their demands to the Swedish court, and the court considered them. The Swedish court's decision went against the journalists' demands, so they filed an appeal with the European Court of Justice.
"The owner of a website may, without the authorisation of the copyright holders, redirect internet users, via hyperlinks, to protected works available on a freely accessible basis on another site," said the European Court of Justice decision yesterday.
It added that this would not be the case if the original party had measures in place to restrict access to their own subscribers, as would be the case with those media sources that have paywalls. However, where content is "freely available" there are no legal grounds to sanction websites that link to it, the court decided. µ