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CJEU rules that linking and framing is not copyright infringement

13 February 2014

The CJEU handed down an important decision this morning on online copyright infringement.

The case (known as the "Svensson" case) concerned press articles that were published by a third party (and available elsewhere on the internet) but were also accessible on the Gotesborgs Posten website through clickable hyperlinks.  It was a matter of dispute whether, on clicking those links, a user would think they were reading content on the Gotesborgs Posten website or had been redirected to a third party site (in other words, whether the Gotesborgs Posten was making use of "linking" or "framing")  The Swedish court of appeal made a reference to the CJEU as to whether the provision of a clickable link to content hosted on a third party website constitutes communication to the public and so an act restricted by copyright.  The CJEU was also asked to rule on whether it made a difference if that link worked through classic "linking" or through framing.

The CJEU answered the question clearly: directing users of a website to copyright content hosted on another site, whether by "linking" or "framing" does not constitute communication to a "new" public as required by the relevant legislation and so does not constitute copyright infringement.  There are important exceptions to this – so, for example, hosting content directly on a new website will likely infringe copyright, as will giving access to content that is intended to sit behind subscriber pay-walls or is clearly intended to have a restricted audience.  However for many publishers, news providers and media companies, this will be welcome news.

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