Hyperlinks and copyright: the Court of Justice of the European Union delivers its verdict

By Myles Jelf and Tom Ohta

On 13 February 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered judgment in a seminal case (Case C-466/12 Svensson) on how hyperlinking and framing should be treated under copyright law in the EU.

The CJEU has ruled that, in principle, providing a clickable link to another person’s copyright work can constitute an act of ‘communication to the public’. In other words, hyperlinking or framing may, in certain circumstances, infringe the right holder’s exclusive right to communicate his or her work to the public. This is a significant development with potentially wide-ranging implications for businesses and consumers.

However, the court also clarified that linking to a ‘freely accessible’ work does not fall within the right holder’s exclusive right — to have found otherwise could have had a chilling effect upon the way in which online content is disseminated…

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