When does hyperlinking infringe copyright? UK High Court addresses linking to internet radio stations


The UK High Court has this morning handed down its judgment in a hyperlinking test case in which Sony Music and Warner Music sued TuneIn* for copyright infringement.  The case was the first opportunity for the High Court to examine in detail the implications of the CJEU’s landmark decisions in Svensson and GS Media.

The issues in dispute centred on the TuneIn Radio app and website, which provide access to links to over 100,000 radio stations broadcast by third parties from around the world.  Many of those radio stations play music and the record labels argued that by providing links to those stations to UK users, TuneIn infringed copyright in the sound recordings which the stations played.

The Court was required to resolve numerous issues in dispute but the central findings were as follows:

  • The provision to UK users of links to radio stations which are already licensed in the UK does not infringe copyright.
  • The provision to UK users of links to radio stations which are licensed in territories other than the UK, or of links to stations which are not licensed at all, does infringe copyright.

The decision is complex and will require careful study to assess its implications, both for rightsholders and for all businesses which link to third party content (from media companies through to online platforms).  Fuller analysis will follow in due course.

*Bird & Bird acted for TuneIn.

Phil heads Bird & Bird's market-leading international Media, Entertainment and Sport group. His personal practice has a particular focus on contentious and pre-contentious matters in the music, publishing, advertising and digital content industries. He advises on all aspects of IP protection and enforcement, including acting on a number of Copyright Tribunal references in the UK in relation to the collective licensing of newspaper and music content, as well as some of the seminal disputes in relation to copyright infringement and online defamation and privacy issues. Phil sits on the Copyright and Technology Working Group of the British Copyright Council and regularly appears in the media commenting on media law and regulation.


  1. The ruling is nonsensical. It claims that since Tunein doesn’t operate identically to Google, that it is infringing. Where in the law does it say that Google is the litmus test for how a search engine must operate? Of course no search engine operates identically to Google – except Google!

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