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I have a question about the ability to link to another website, either through hyperlinks alone, or by also using the thumbnail of the hyperlink. This question is specifically relating to the UK (if that has any bearing on potential answers).

I have outlined a scenario below:

Linking Ltd (made up example for this scenario) is a provider of data in the property sector. As part of their offering Linking Ltd wants to help people find the sold prices of properties that are similar to their property so that they can get an understanding of how much their property might be worth.

Much of the data that Linking Ltd provides in order to do so is provided by the Open Government License, so as long as the correct attributions are made that data should be fine.

However, as an added benefit, it is useful for people to know what these similar properties look like (both internally and externally). The only way to do this is by finding the properties that Linking Ltd suggests on Rightmove or Zoopla where you can scroll through photos of a particular property.

Linking Ltd would like to make it easier for its customers to visit these specific pages. For example, if Linking Ltd suggest 123 High Street is similar to the property that the customer is looking to sell and the customer wants to know more about this property and look at the photos, instead of the customer typing 123 High Street into Google and then being linked to Rightmove or Zoopla, Linking Ltd would like to provide a hyperlink to the specific page on either Rightmove or Zoopla on its website.

Would this be possible without breaking any laws? Whilst their specific T&Cs say that you can't link without permission / can only link to the homepage - I was wondering if this is one of those cases that, despite what the T&Cs say, case law takes precedence.

Keep in mind that the information is readily available free of charge in the public domain.

If the above is possible, could Linking Ltd take it a step further and show the hyperlink with a thumbnail of a photo like in this example (only what is outlined in red) enter image description here

Linking Ltd is a commercial company and sells the data to its clients. So this data would be used for commercial purposes.

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  • There is no such concept as "thumbnail" of the hyperlink. If you choose to reproduce a portion of the site in a smaller form, that's certainly more of a grey area than a hyperlink. Mar 24 at 13:00
  • Also note that "public domain" has a specific meaning that is importantly different from "publicly accessible". Mar 24 at 13:01
  • @GregoryCurrie so in this scenario would the hyperlink be okay and would the size of the image reproducing the site by a factor in whether having a image would also be okay? Rightmove and Zoopla are in the public domain and publicly accessible in that the data required is not behind any paywall. Mar 24 at 14:51
  • No. The content on Rightmove and Zoopla IS NOT in the public domain. The content may be publicly accessible, but it does not mean it's in the public domain. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain Mar 24 at 15:27
  • If the Terms of Service of the website forbid you for directly linking to individual pages, you would be in breech of the Terms of Service. From a Copyright perspective, which is a separate legal question, linking to the site is fine. Reproducing an image from the website would probably constitute a copyright infringement. Mar 24 at 15:30

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Yes, this is legal

This is exactly how search engines work.

If the information linked includes personal information, then the subject has a right to be forgotten under Article 7 of the GDPR. So long as Linking Ltd makes that accomodation they should be fine.

At least under US law (Can Google legally host images for its search results without permission?) the use of thumbnails is fine. UK copyright law is different but it seems likely that it’s ok there too.

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