When a page at "Pirate Site" embeds images from "Example Site" by hotlinking, we have the following situation:
- Pirate Site isn't actually copying, storing, or manipulating anything. The pages only contain code with instructions that tell the browser to go fetch the images on Example Site. Example of code:
- The visitor's browser automatically downloads the images from Example Site and displays them on Pirate Site. The visitor's browser is what is actually doing the work: going to get the image, downloading it, storing a local copy temporarily, and displaying it.
- The visitor will do all that automatically without even realizing it or meaning it, just by visiting Pirate Site, even if they landed on that site by mistake.
We apparently have a paradox where the real "pirate" (the owner of Pirate Site) isn't even touching any copyrighted data in any way, but on the other hand the one who is actually processing the copyrighted material (the visitor) cannot avoid it. To avoid infringement, the visitor would have to open the source code before the browser executes it, check all the code, check who the copyright holders are, and make sure no copyrighted material will be downloaded when the web page is opened. So the pirate isn't touching the data, and the visitor technically can't avoid breaking the law.
Does this paradox have a solution? Who is infringing the copyright here?