ECJ in Hyperlink Shock Ruling

You’ll all be pleased to know that the European Court of Justice (we’re not allowed to call it the ECJ any more – it’s the Court of Justice and it is an arm of the European Union) has declared that hyperlinks are legal after all and not a potential infringement of the copyright in the material that is the target of the link.

OK, perhaps that’s not a massive surprise, but years and years ago (when some of our clients were still in short trousers, metaphorically speaking), most thought that the practice of “framing” – that’s where the link produces the targeted page apparently within the site providing the link – had been outlawed. The ECJ – oops, the Court of Justice (which happens to be in Europe) – has said that as long as the targeted content wasn’t restricted in some way (in which case, the link would be an unlawful circumvention), it doesn’t matter how the content is presented.

So you can link to publicly available material on another site, present the desired text within your own site (stripped of extraneous branding, advertising, etc) and it seems that you won’t be infringing the copyright owner’s right to control how that content is communicated to the public (because they have already communicated it to the public). ¬†Another hammer blow to the newspaper industry, it would seem – or at least that part of it that relies upon advertising revenue from publicly available content.

Of course, if you find a way to link to content that is restricted in some way (I guess this would usually mean password-protected), then it would be an infringement because the content would NOT have been communicated to the public already.

And if you stick beans in your ears, you’ll probably damage your hearing…

For those with a head for European-ese, the short-ish judgment is available here:
http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=147847&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=106551

… and you can link to it to your heart’s content.

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