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[FYI] (Fwd) FC: SearchEngineWatch.com on "Deep Linking Lunacy"
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- Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2002 20:42:57 +0200
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Date sent: Wed, 10 Jul 2002 12:32:03 -0400
From: Declan McCullagh <email@example.com>
Subject: FC: SearchEngineWatch.com on "Deep Linking Lunacy"
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We've covered this in some detail:
Date: Tue, 09 Jul 2002 14:55:29 -0400
From: "Paul Levy" <PLEVY@citizen.org>
Subject: Deep Linking Lunacy
Today's issue of Search Day has a cogent discussion of the deep
The editor, Chris Sherman, has given permission to circulate the
article on the condition that I provide the authorship and copyright
attribution from the top of the newsletter, and include a link to the
article on the web, at
Deep Linking Lunacy
A Danish court has ruled that "deep linking" is illegal, and pundits
say this decision spells doom for the Net. Should you be worried?
By Chris Sherman
Associate Editor, Search Engine Watch
Copyright (c) 2002 INT Media Group, Inc.
At issue is the practice of so-called "deep linking," creating links
directly to individual web pages within a site, rather than to the
home page. Deep linking is a time-honored practice that has existed
since the very beginning of the web. Indeed, deep linking was one of
the fundamental design principles that helped the web grow as quickly
as it did, by making it easy for people to directly access individual
Your bookmarks or favorites are typically deep links. So are search
Deep links are nothing more than a URL and some words describing that
In other words: facts. Facts are not copyrightable. And yet the
court has somehow managed to interpret the law in a way that
disregards both the un-copyrightable nature of facts and the
fundamental operation of the web.
The recent deep linking court case was brought by the Danish Newspaper
Publishers Association against Newsbooster.com. Newsbooster "scrapes"
news from thousands of newspapers, extracting direct links to these
stories using headlines as the link text. Unlike search engines,
which also crawl and index the full text of web pages, Newsbooster and
other "scrapers" extract only links and titles.
When users click on these links, they go directly to the page on the
newspaper's web site. There are no frames or other devices used to
"trap" viewers on Newsbooster's site. Newsbooster links are similar
to the news links in SearchDay (below), provided by Moreover.com.
The Newspaper Publishers Association argued that in bypassing their
front pages, Newsbooster's deep links deprive them of advertising
revenue. Further, they asserted that Newsbooster is in direct
competition with newspapers.
In other words, in offering a service that makes it easy to find and
access news stories (with their accompanying ads) directly on a
newspaper web site, Newsbooster is somehow both competing with and
diminishing the revenues from users viewing ads accompanying those
stories. The court, in a stupefying interpretation of the Danish
Copyright Act, agreed.
Let's follow the logic of the decision further. If deep linking is
illegal, search engines are the worst offenders, because they create
deep links to the entire web. Let's put them out of business.
Next up, online phone directories because they offer addresses and
telephone numbers that allow you to directly contact individuals or
businesses. Likewise mapping services, because they graphically
display locations and provide driving directions.
TV listings. Price-comparison shopping engines. Weblogs. All
theoretically illegal due to their rampant practice of deep linking.
But why stop with the web? How about those sneaky academics, citing
the work of fellow scholars with footnotes to specific articles using
exact page numbers in the journals that published them? And just
think of the worst offenders of all -- librarians, who not only help
patrons find books, magazines and other materials but often even show
them where to find specific information, sometimes even down to the
paragraph or sentence level!
Sites that prohibit deep linking suffer from malignant stupidity,
driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of the web and user needs.
The whole point of having a public web site is to encourage users to
visit, and deep links make finding and visiting sites easy. Home
pages, typically offering cluttered design and feeble excuses for site
search tools, make finding content much more difficult.
And as any webmaster who has even a whit of experience knows, it's
incredibly easy to force pages to "redirect" with just a simple
snippet of code. Don't want a visitor entering your site through a
given page? Add a redirect command and they'll automatically -- and
instantly -- be viewing any page of your choosing, regardless of the
link they clicked on.
It's child's play.
The newspapers celebrating this decision will likely find that the
court's agreeing with their idiotic deep linking policies is a Pyhrric
victory. This decision, if upheld, won't destroy the web -- it will
Balkanize it. Sites that prohibit deep linking will likely encounter a
backlash among the web community, and find that people don't link to
them at all.
Search engines will also be wary of these sites. In other words,
sites enjoining access by any route other than their home page will
find that they are isolated and cut off from the web community. They
may have loyal users, but the web community as a whole will either
ignore or be ignorant of their existence.
Not exactly a winning strategy to attract advertisers, potential
subscribers, or other sources of revenue.
This isn't the first time a court has ruled on the legality of deep
linking, and likely won't be the last. Apart from creating a (likely
temporary) inconvenience for Newsbooster, the ruling isn't likely to
have any significant ongoing impact.
If you want to learn more about this issue, including elegantly
reasoned essays on the legality of linking, check out the links below.
And please note: According to Danish law, most of the deep links
offered below can be considered illegal.
Deep Link Foes Get Another Win
A Danish company can no longer link to content within the website of a
Danish newspaper, in the latest test on whether deep linking is
With subtle irony, Newsbooster's front page offers links to numerous
sources of information on the current deep linking controversy,
including background, commentary and a transcript of the Danish's
Links to articles and commentary about deep linking, selected by the
American Library Association.
Links and Law
Myths about Links
Comments from Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the web, about the legality
of links and common myths that tend to persist about linking.
The Link Controversy Page
Though somewhat dated, this page offers a comprehensive set of links
to the legal issues, precedent and problems of using hyperlinks on the
Search Engines and Legal Issues
As search engines have grown as an industry, a number of lawsuits and
legal issues have arisen in relation to them. This collection of
articles from Search Engine Watch is organized by type of
dispute,including many articles on issues related to linking and
Paul Alan Levy
Public Citizen Litigation Group
1600 - 20th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
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