Practical links from your website to other websites are an important feature. They not only make a website more interesting for search engines but also promote added value and relevance. Internet users get more out of their time spent on your site if it can lead them directly to interesting content located elsewhere. Corporate blogs or wikis can especially increase their user value by integrating external links or content such as YouTube videos. When linking, the few – but decisive – legal restrictions must not be overlooked.
With just one click of the mouse, links offer Internet users the possibility to retrieve additional information from the site they are currently on or to be redirected to another website. To make this possible, the website operator marks certain text passages or elements in its content management system, activates the linking function and enters the target web address. Visual highlighting lets Internet users know that more information is available. These interested users are then just one click away from the target.
Links increase a website’s ranking position in search engines and its degree of usefulness for Internet users. In order to provide customers with the best possible results, Google and other search engines take various quality criteria into account when deciding which hits to display first in a search query. This process includes evaluating the quantity and quality of links presented on a website: How many links lead to other well-rated websites or originate from them (backlinks)? Links are important for individual website visitors because they offer the option of gaining access to more information than offered by the page they are currently on. Clever links can increase the degree of usefulness for website visitors.
Copyright is frequently the subject of legal disputes related to Internet use. Several higher court rulings have created extensive legal certainty on the topic of linking. In principle, the following applies: A link may be made to content that is freely accessible on the Internet. A link to this type of content is not being reproduced nor made accessible to a new audience that would otherwise not have had access to it. Despite this, anyone intending to create a link should first take a very close look at the target content because it is forbidden to create links to law infringing content. This category of content covers not only objectively prohibited things such as links to pages containing child pornography or swastikas. It also applies to content that is recognizably illegal on the Internet, including images uploaded by a third party in obvious violation of a photographer’s copyright. When assessing potential link content, it is particularly important to identify who is maintaining a presence on the Internet for business purposes or creating links to earn a profit. This could also apply to corporate blogs used by companies to advertise their products or maintain their brand. Paid advertising in private blogs may also be considered as a commercial interest and would require more scrutiny.
Links may lead to a website’s start page or to selected subpages featuring specific content. So-called ‘deep links’ are used to bring Internet users directly into the deeper structure of a website. Deep links are subject to only one restriction: They may not side-step technical measures set up to protect the contents of a subpage. For example, if a website recognizably attempts to allow Internet users access to subpages only via its start page, for example with a session ID, this must be accepted – even if the protective measures are not very sophisticated and could be easily circumvented.
Embedding, which is also called framing, involves displaying videos or photos directly on a website that are actually featured on another website, for example on YouTube. While links lead Internet users to another website, frames serve to keep the user on the same website by integrating external content. This type of embedding is generally allowed and does not violate any copyrights if the copyright holder has consented to making this content freely accessible to all Internet users. However, it is important to indicate the content’s source. If the impression is created that the website owns the embedded content, there may be consequences based on copyright infringement and violation of competition law. For example, operators who embed YouTube videos usually offer viewers the option to “Watch on youtube.com” at the bottom of the frame, which ensures that users are made aware of the clip’s source. Embedding is also subject to the general rule: Do not include any infringing content.
When it comes to linking and framing, those responsible for placing content on the company’s website must be made aware of the finer points of the law. The fact that stricter due diligence requirements apply to corporate websites than to private websites is particularly important. Caution must be exercised when selecting links or videos to be embedded, particularly in view of copyright law and infringing content.