The European Court of Justice has ruled that it is not an infringement of copyright to link to an article that is freely-available online.

The court said that this applied even in cases where users had the impression that the linked article was appearing on a secondary website rather than that of the original publisher.

In its judgment on a dispute between a Swedish newspaper and another company, the ECJ said a website can link to protected works that are available on another site without the authorisation of the copyright holders.

It said that, by being freely-available in the first place, an article is regarded as public.

A separate site linking to this piece does not make it available to a "new public", the court said, and so no copyright infringement can take place.

The court notes that the position would be different, however, if the link allowed users to circumvent restrictions put in place to restrict the article’s public availability, such as a paywall.