Photo courtesy of PICJUMBO. By Viktor Hanacek
Photo courtesy of PICJUMBO. By Viktor Hanacek

These days, it is quite easy to provide links to other website’s content from your own.  Generally, linking to another website does not infringe the copyrights of the site.  However, different kinds of linking can give raise to different issues and may expose you to liability for copyright infringement.

Deep Link:  A deep link is any link that directs a user beyond the home page of another website.  This type of linking generally does not constitute copyright infringement.  However, there could be liability if you know or had reason to know that the work you are linking to was infringing and encouraged it.

Inline Linking:  A line link is the actual display of another site’s content on your own.  This involves embedding a line of HTML on your site.  An example would be embedding a YouTube video on your site.  Although there is not clear consensus on this issue, the majority view in the courts is that inline linking does not give rise to copyright infringement.  The exception is if you know or had reason to know the work clearly infringes somebody’s copyright.

Framing:  Framing is feature that allows a user to view contents of your website while it is framed by information from another site.  This involves using HTML code to pull content form different sources.  Instead of taking the user to the linked website, the information from that website is imported into the original page and displayed in a frame.   The case law on framing is not clearly developed, but a framer is more likely to be found liable of copyright infringement if the users are confused about the association between the two sites and if the framed material was modified without authorization.

The best way to avoid any risk of liability for copyright infringement is obtain permission or use disclaimers.   A simple linking agreement with the linked site is the simplest method to avoid any issues.  However, if you are unable to obtain permission, a prominently displayed disclaimer may reduce the likelihood of legal issues.  Although not a guarantee, such disclaimer may be taken into consideration by the courts.