The European Court of Justice issued the ruling in a suit brought by Swedish journalists against a Web company that had posted links on its site to their online news articles, the BBC reported Friday.
The journalists worked for the Swedish newspaper Goteborgs-Posten and had articles published on the paper's website that were accessible through links on the website run by Retriever Sverige.
The European Union court ruled copyright law had not been broken because the articles in question were on Goteborgs-Posten's website and therefore already "freely available."
"The owner of a website may, without the authorization of the copyright holders, redirect Internet users, via hyperlinks, to protected works available on a freely accessible basis on another site," the court said in a statement.
If a link led users to material intentionally restricted from being freely available -- for example if it had been posted on a site that operates a paywall -- the "position would be different," the court said.
Goteborgs-Posten said it was making no comment on the ruling.