EU court: Go ahead and hyperlink. It's OK, really

Direct from the "common sense dept." at the European Court of Justice, it turns out linking to an online page or article does not require the permission of a copyright holder.

European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. European Commission

Common sense prevails!

The highest court in Europe ruled on Thursday that it will not mess up a vital part of the Internet's functionality -- a decision that could have left much of the Internet in the 28 member state bloc to its knees.

The Luxembourg-based court decided that it would not be necessary to seek out the copyright holder's permission before someone links to their news article, blog post, or Web site.

In the case of Nils Svensson et al vs. Retriever Sverige, the court ruled this was a silly idea and to leave the Internet alone.

As you might expect, it was yet another copyright-related case, summed up:

"In its judgment delivered today, the Court holds that the provision of clickable links to protected works constitutes an act of communication. Such an act is defined as the making available of a work to the public in such a way that members of the public may access it (even if they do not make use of that possibility). In addition, the potential users of the site operated by Retriever Sverige can be regarded as a public, since their number is indeterminate and fairly large.

The court ruled that, "the owner of a website, such as that of Retriever Sverige, 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."

In a nutshell, you can provide a list of hyperlinks on a Web site and not have to seek permission first.

The only caveat is, "where the hyperlink permits users of the site on which that link appears to circumvent restrictions put in place by the site on which the protected work appears in order to restrict public access to that work to the latter site's subscribers."

Or, in layman's terms, a paywall.

Considering hyperlinks are core to the very heart of the Internet we hold so dear, screwing around with them frankly would have left some serious headaches in how the Internet actually operates.

This story originally appeared as "Good news! Europe's highest court decides not to ruin the Internet" on ZDNet.

 

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