In-line linking refers to a link within a web page which causes content from another website to be automatically loaded onto the web page. To the user, the content from the other website appears to be part of the web page.
In-line linking is commonly used by web designers to distribute the use of bandwidth for images. Whenever an image is displayed to the viewer of a website the size of the image is counted against the host website’s bandwidth limit. A designer can host images on other sites that will receive less traffic, or even third-party image hosting sites such as Photobucket or Flickr to reduce the bandwidth usage of the main website. Some developers also use in-line linking to usurp the bandwidth of unsuspecting websites that host content that the developer wishes to use on its own site.
When the images online are copyrighted the manner in which they are displayed on a website determines whether the website operator is infringing on the copyright holder’s rights. If the owner of a website directly embeds a copyrighted image on its website he or she is more than likely infringing on the copyright owner’s intellectual property rights. If instead, the owner of a website uses in-line linking to display an image rightfully posted on another site, the courts have held that no copyright infringement has taken place. In such a case the website operator has not reproduced a copyrighted image or stored a copy but merely included code on its website that directs the viewer’s computer to an Internet address where a legally stored copy of the image can be retrieved.