I am planning to run an image site similar to this one, and what I've noticed is that every single image there are hosted externally through inline-linking.

Is this a way to avoid copyright infringements? Because upon following up, that's the impression I got from these links:


where they states things like

"United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit explained why inline linking did not violate US copyright law: .... Google’s computers do not store the photographic images "

"It allows you to link to an asset without copying it, avoiding copyright infringement. Additionally, hotlinking keeps the asset in the original owner's control."

"embedding media in your online work should not expose you to legal liability"

  • Good way to expose yourself to goatse.cx. It's pretty funny when the person being infringed on decides to get playful with the .htaccess files. Apr 11, 2014 at 3:30
  • I'm not sure it makes sense to ask a legal question on a site like this. Even if you get an answer telling you 'yeah sure, it's fine' you can still end up getting sued. And you can be pretty sure whoever posts an answer won't be coming to your aid or helping to pay your legal bills. Why not try asking a lawyer in whatever country you live in? Apr 11, 2014 at 6:04
  • @FiascoLabs I think the risk is pretty low as a site like that probably have several thousands image links stored and it only displays one at the time.
    – Tony Fire
    Apr 11, 2014 at 20:03
  • @TomBrossman Asked it here because I saw other questions here regarding copyright. I was also hoping to ask webmasters if hotlinking was a common "method" to avoid / reduce the risk of copyright infringements.
    – Tony Fire
    Apr 11, 2014 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


If you're not hosting an image yourself, but are getting a cease and desist letter, then you remove the link to the image in question, simple. Considering this might be a problem, meaning a few take down requests per day, hour or what have you, you might want to make it easy for someone to take down an image link all their own. This way you can get yourself out of hot water by simply stating anyone can delete links for your site, if they wanted.

Think out of the box, or read into and mirror Dropbox's architecture and methodology for a truly hands off approach.

  • I do not mind takedown notices and I'd happily comply if someone dropped it on me. What I'm worried about are corporations who would rather sue first and ask later.
    – Tony Fire
    Apr 11, 2014 at 20:09
  • 1
    I do believe the law states you must be asked to cease and desist. When you don't cease and desist is when you get sued, going back to the idea of allowing anyone to delete an image they find undermines their copyright holdings. Apr 11, 2014 at 23:17

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