0370 270 6000

When embedding audio-visual content in web pages is copyright infringement

23 September 2020

If you publish website content then you need to be careful before embedding third party images.

The rights of a copyright owner are infringed if their work is communicated to the public without their permission. In the context of internet use, communicated to the public means making available the copyright work by electronic transmission so that members of the public may access it from a place and at a time individually chosen by them.

It is well established that once the owner of a work of copyright makes that work available on the internet, hyperlinking to that work is not copyright infringement. This is because the copyright owner has communicated the work to the public.

So, whilst normal hyperlinking to third-party web content that is freely available is a communication to the public, it is not a communication to a new public. This is the position in respect of hyperlinks which are ‘simple links’ or ‘deep links’. By normal hyperlinking, we mean that the URL (uniform resource locator) is identifiable to the web user. Linking works by the user activating the URL (by clicking). That link which contains the URL of the third-party content will direct the web user to the home page of the linked website (either by replacing the current web page or opening it in a new window). It may also direct the user to a specific web page or content within the linked website (without first navigating via the homepage). Uses in this way are generally permitted and is not an act of copyright infringement.

However, hyperlinking may also be done by a method commonly known as ‘framing.’ Framing is where one website is embedded in another website. Traditional ‘framing’ employs a technique which allows the screen to be divided or split into several parts, each of which can independently display a different webpage or internet resource. Framing in this traditional form is now obsolete but has been superseded by ‘inline framing’. An “inline frame” is where just one element of the website – such as an image – is embedded (and is not a screen splitting technique). A web user may not be clear as to the location (URL) of the inline link and will often appear as a normal part of the website hosting that inline link.

The CJEU’s Advocate General Szpunar1 has advised the CJEU to rule that inline framing of images and other copyright works is a communication to a new public. Therefore, it can be copyright infringement if there is no licence in place. However, applying technological measures (e.g. measures which prevent the link from working) to prevent the use of those works by traditional framing methods (e.g. screen splitting) does not make framing a communication to a new public and does not make it copyright infringement.

What this means for you:

Rightholders: Applying technological protection measures to your audio-visual content may not give you more legal rights. However, it is still worth doing to limit the unauthorised copying of your work. Combining these measures with written terms and conditions may give you a legal remedy against infringing use.

Web developers: Inline framing someone else’s audio-visual content is an infringement of copyright if you do not have a licence.

1Case C-392/19 VG Bild-Kunst v Stiftung Preuβischer Kulturbesitz

Focus on...

Legal updates

The Race to Net Zero: Commercial and Legal Considerations

This article covers, at a high level, some of the legal issues that arise in the lifecycle of the innovation and deployment of new technology within the energy sector. It is not intended to be a comprehensive account of all legal aspects.


Published articles

Sustainability in construction

The climate emergency has reached a point where real and substantial damage is being caused to both the planet and society. There has been a shift from planning and theorising the most effective solutions, to a phase where practical, efficient, and sustainable solutions are required at speed.


Published articles

Hydrogen villages

First Hydrogen has identified 4 sites in the UK where it plans to locate large hydrogen refuelling stations for commercial vehicles. The sites will also accommodate on-site hydrogen production of between 20 and 40 MW (totalling 80 MW - 160 MW across all 4 locations) and will serve the urban areas of Greater Liverpool, Greater Manchester, London and the Thames Estuary. The plans form part of the Energy division’s strategy to develop green hydrogen production projects, initially in the UK and Canada.



80% hours for 100% pay? That’ll do nicely

As has been widely reported this week, some 3,000 UK workers are taking part in a six month trial to assess the viability of a four-day working week without any reduction in their normal pay.


The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up