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Hotlinking or inline linking is the process of embedding media in a web page that is stored on a different host than the page containing it. Often the media is images, but referencing sound, videos, text or JavaScript files is also common.

Except in the case of framing (see below ) the main page of a website , a deep link is always used for hotlinking .

Hotlinking as unwanted use

The creator of a website can use hotlinking to relieve the host offering his own website of data traffic. It is not immediately apparent to the viewer of the page that a medium has been integrated by an external host. In addition to reducing the data traffic, storage space for the integrated medium is also saved.

The foreign host also supplies the visitors to the referring page and thus has additional data traffic. If this happens against the will of the owner of the foreign host, one speaks of traffic theft , traffic theft or leeching . There are a few ways a web server or web application can prevent hotlinking. A frequently chosen method is to query the HTTP referrer sent by the web browser of a visitor to the site. However, this can also prevent visitors who are referred to a website via conventional hyperlinks and visitors who switch off the referrer from accessing the linked medium.

Another form of unwanted use is the embedding of copyrighted media without the consent of the owner of the exploitation rights of the medium, see legal situation .

Hotlinking as a service

Video portals such as YouTube or Vimeo explicitly offer free hotlinking as a service . Mass distribution as an integrated video on all conceivable pages is part of the business model here; the provider accepts the disadvantage of increased data traffic. Since a Flash player is usually used for the display, the provider has much more extensive options here to use the image area made available to him on the integrating page for his own economic purposes. The integrator and the provider both benefit from this approach.

In addition, the service of a content delivery network is offered by various companies as the provision of photos, video, audio or JavaScript, CSS frameworks and icon sets through a system. This service can be free of charge for the hotlinking user or with a fee.

The technology

In HTML -Quelltext a website referenced container can be integrated in several ways also from foreign hosts.

There are HTML elements that directly reference different types of media: <img>for photos and graphics (since HTML 2.0); <audio>for audio / sound / sound and <video>for video (both since HTML 5).

Frames and inline frames allow external pages and thus any type of media that are available on these pages to be integrated. This is done using the attribute of srcthe HTML elements <frame>and <iframe>, which specifies the URL of the frame content. For example, you can use the specification to integrate <iframe src=""></iframe>the entire www.example.compage on the host /index.htmlinto a page on any other host. If frames or inline frames are used for hotlinking, one speaks of framing .

Legal situation

The unauthorized integration of foreign media or page components has already been forbidden by courts in Germany in judgments. Different laws such as competition law and copyright law were used here. For example, the District Court of Munich I prohibited hotlinking a photo on the basis of copyright law. However, the European Court of Justice has ruled that the inclusion of third-party content by means of framing does not result in any public reproduction in the sense of copyright and that the framing is therefore not objectionable under copyright law if the content is freely accessible on the Internet. Further prerequisites for a permitted embedding are that no new audience is addressed and no other technical means are used. In addition, there remain questions about the necessity of the author's consent and special features of image files. With the BGH judgment of July 9, 2015, the embedding of third-party videos was declared compatible with copyright law in Germany.

Individual evidence

  1. Framing a photo infringes copyrights. In: heise online. January 24, 2007, accessed July 24, 2008 .
  2. ECJ: Including third-party content in the web is not a violation of copyright! In: Clemens Pfitzer, October 24, 2014, accessed October 24, 2014 .
  3. ECJ: Embedding is generally allowed. In: Florian Wagenknecht , October 27, 2014, accessed October 27, 2014 .
  4. BGH judgment: embedding third-party videos is compatible with copyright law . Spiegel Online ; Retrieved July 9, 2015