The IT Law Wiki


A hyperlink (also called a link) is the highlighted text or image (such as a logo or graphic) that, when selected by the user causes his or her browser to display a new web page.


"[H]yperlinks are similar to citations in the printed media."[1] Hyperlinks (links) are shortcuts that allow a user to navigate from one Web page to another Web page or file without manually entering the full URL. Links may be hidden on the Web page so that only users who know where to look will likely find the links. Links may also automatically redirect the Web browser to a different website.

Hyperlinks have long been understood to be critical to communication because they facilitate access to information. They provide visitors on one Web site a way to navigate internally referenced words, phrases, arguments, and ideas.[2]
[H]yperlinks are used in so many different ways that it is practically impossible to describe their impact in any general way and the effect of each should be judged according to its own context. They can be used, for example, to refer the viewer to more specific information about the subject being discussed on the originating page. . . . But, as here, a hyperlink can also be used to provide access to a webpage with information more general and less specific than was available on the originating page.[3]

Copyright issues[]

Some copyright owners have claimed that a hyperlink that connects a user to a website containing infringing material may further infringe the reproduction, performance, distribution and/or display rights of the copyright owner.[4] If a linked site contains infringing material, the link may give rise to secondary liability for contributory or vicarious infringement on the part of the linking site, particularly if the linking site is promoting the copying, transmission, public display or public performance of material at the linked site. Even if the linked material is not infringing itself, the reproduction, distribution, performance, or display that results from the link may not be authorized by the copyright owner, and therefore, may constitute copyright infringement.[5]


  1. Internet Freedom and Political Space, at 33.
  2. Adelson v. Harris, 973 F.Supp.2d 467, 484 (S.D.N.Y. 2013).
  3. Bartholomew v. YouTube, LLC., 2017 WL 5986446, at *5 (Cal. App. 6th Dist. 2017) (footnote and emphasis omitted)
  4. But see 17 U.S.C. §512, which provides a safe harbor to online service providers who set up hyperlinks to infringing material without knowledge of the infringement.
  5. See, e.g., Intellectual Reserve, Inc. v. Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Inc., 75 F. Supp. 2d 1290 (D. Utah 1999) (full-text) (granting preliminary injunction under a theory of contributory copyright infringement against a website that provided hyperlinks to infringing material at another website), and compare with Bernstein v. J.C. Penney, Inc., 1998 WL 906644, 50 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1063 (C.D. Cal. 1998) (denying a preliminary injunction against a non-infringing hyperlink to infringing material).