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Restrictive Linking Policies & The Net 267

Masem writes " reports on a new site set up by Prof. David Sorkin of the John Marshall Law School that points out web sites with restrictive linking policies, entitled Don't Link To Us. Sorkin set up the site as a way to enlighten net users on the impact of such policies in the aftermath of past and pending court cases over deep linking policies. An owner of one site on the list,, was suprised to discover that their site has a restrictive linking policy, and already plans to implement changes to it."
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Restrictive Linking Policies & The Net

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  • Beautiful (Score:5, Funny)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:26AM (#4111742) Homepage Journal
    Thats really beautiful: a list of people who don't want to be linked to, and each entry is a working link to them. I wonder how many letters they get saying "Please do not link to us from your Do not link to us page"?
    • Re:Beautiful (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jeffy124 ( 453342 )
      even better: they could deep-link. eg - link directly to a news site's story instead of the front page. best way to accomplish - use large collection of deep links.
    • More Beautiful (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ( 142825 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:37AM (#4111835) Homepage
      It would be more beautiful if they threaten legal action. Saying to Sorkin that the if he "wants to avoid the expense of having to hire a lawyer.....that he must take down those links.

      This is almost as good as going against someone who buys their ink by the barrel.

      Lets see, 1 law professor, 20 students needed project for class. Hmmmm.....

      • John Marshall in particular has a reputation for teaching trial advocacy, and has one of the first computer-law-oriented programs in the world. They also hosted the American Bar Association's "Cybercrime" conference last May.

        So you have a lot of really connected lawyers who know the field and know how to convince a judge or jury.

        I'm willing to bet that Sorkin could pull a few favors, assemble a dream team, and put whomever was dumb enough to sue him into a world of blinding pain.

        • With Felton, the RIAA knew they were in trouble.

          I would love to see the face of the lawyer the newpaper that takes action, when they see Sorkin, Lessig, Tyre at the defendants table, then 50 or so students of Sorkin taken notes for class, as this is their new class project.

          • Price of Link - $5.00
          • Price of laywers - $10,000
          • Look on plaintiff's lawyers face when they see they really stepped in it - Priceless.

    • I agree that the polices mentioned seem daft and unenforcable. However it seems to me that if companies wish to implement restrictive linking policies, then they shuld be able to do this in a more automated way. One approach could be an Apache module which implemented policies on linking, based on the referrer field. I guess many people would probably want this type of facility to stop people linking directly to images on your Web site (e.g. stealing your identity by taking your logo). We're likely to see more need as technologies such as XLink and XPpointer take off - I want to link to your page, but I don't want the logo or the copyright statement at the bottom of the page!. Brian Kelly
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:27AM (#4111750) Homepage Journal
    There is a simple way to keep people from linking to your site, just find your webserver, and unplug the network connection. And next week, we talk about people who hang signs in their window, but don't want people looking at them.
    • And next week, we talk about people who hang signs in their window, but don't want people looking at them.

      You mean people look at signs? If I come to the store on a day that it's closed, you can bet if I don't lock the door there will be more people come in than on a day I'm open.

      Me, "Didn't you see the sign? It says we're closed."

      Clueless person, "What sign?"

      Reminds me of when I was a kid. I put a giant water balloon on the roof with a small block of wood keeping it from rolling. I tied a rope to the block of wood and let it hang off of the roof. A small sign read "DO NOT pull on rope", you can guess what happend next.

      Man, holloween was fun back then...

    • by DustMagnet ( 453493 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @01:01PM (#4112486) Journal
      There's another way, with fewer side effects. . .

      Just find your webserver and configure it to check the referer field and enforce your policy. If it means enough to you to have a policy (and sue), why not enforce it? This was brought up during some of these court cases. To me, that should have reduced any damage claims to zero, but it didn't.

  • Say what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:29AM (#4111765) was surprised that their website had a policy that they and their lawyers had ccoked up restricting linking? Why were they surprised? Did this policy get published by little policy fairies in the middle of the night without's knowledge or consent.


    • More likely the person who wrote the policy has nothing to do with the actual web site maintenance. The current caretaker probably had too many other tasts to read the policy somebody else had written, and so was taken by surprise.

      What this may mean is that may actually sit down and write a link/reference policy that would make sense. But don't hold your breath.
      • What this may mean is that may actually sit down and write a link/reference policy that would make sense. But don't hold your breath.

        It'd be even better if they'd lose the JavaScript that takes you from the page you requested to their "turn-cookies-on" page if you've rejected their cookies. (You see the requested page for a split second.) Maybe fixing Mozilla so you can selectively disable JavaScript altogether for certain sites would also do the trick...

    • Response from the webmaster over at "What, you mean all that legal talk actually means something?"
  • With all the publicity this site has been getting (here, Fark, ZDNet,, etc), I wonder how long until some company sends the lawyers after him?

    I honestly hope not, becuse the site seems to be doing some good in hitting people with the clue stick.

    • Considering his profession I doubt they'll be able to push him around. I also imagine he has more manpower at his disposal than most medium sized lawfirms. So if they REALLY want to go at him someone is going to have a heck of a fight on their hands.

  • by Neon Spiral Injector ( 21234 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:30AM (#4111786)
    First if you don't want people linking to your site at all, you are just an idiot and shouldn't be allowed to have a website at all.

    But secondly, and this is usually mentioned when this comes up, but I'll say it again.

    If you don't want people deep linking into your site, put some sort of CGI in place. Either with refer checking, cookies, or a server side stateful mechinism that tracks a visitors progress through the site. The first two can be defeated if someone really wants in, but will stop most linking.

    But this is just stupid anyway. If people weren't ment to link between sites it would have been called the World Wide Line, or the World Wide Collection-of-Sites-that-You-Have-to-Remember-Ever y-URL-For.
    • by liquidsin ( 398151 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:43AM (#4111890) Homepage
      Indeed. Any webserver lets you do this with relative ease. Don't allow any referrer other than your own site. Redirect all referred hits to /index.html or whatever. But for the love of $deity, stop trying to legislate things that have absolutely no reason to be legislated.
      • wget --referer
        • Dear ftobin:

          I represent the web site, the premier web site used on the internet for examples in books and articles. My client's site is refernced in over 50,000 publications and web sites, more than 10 times as many as their nearest competitor,

          Through your slashdot posting, you have posted a circumvention device (the "Device") which defeats the patent-pending content protections in the web site.

          We ask that you please cease and desist your infringing post at once. Or we'll sue you into a fine powder.


          LawyerDrone #456/23

    • Shhhh! The lawyers don't want site owners to know that there's an inexpensive technical way to defeat deep linking!
    • if you don't want people deep linking into your site, put some sort of CGI in place. Either with refer checking, cookies, or a server side stateful mechinism that tracks a visitors progress through the site. The first two can be defeated if someone really wants in, but will stop most linking.

      If you don't want people deep linking and abusing your site...don't simply ask them to nicely, prevent everyone from linking into your site.

      Some sites, are just stupid. Others, have legitamate reasons. (I.e. NPR had this and was worried that sites would link directly to NPR's bandwidth heavy content without giving it credit). They weren't worried about someone bookmarking their favorite link. They could either A. Ask people not to link and then talk to anyone who sets up, and let Joe User get buy, OR B. prevent everyone.

      I ask: In practical terms, which one is better?
  • what i dont get... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jeffy124 ( 453342 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:34AM (#4111811) Homepage Journal
    is why they're trying legal (as in using the law) approaches to technical problems, something that normally cannot be done. Technical problems need technical solutions.

    In this case - checking referrer tags in http requests and blocking them as appropriate instead of litigating the defendant into removing a link.
    • It's because the person who gets upset by this behavior is normally from Legal, and thus fights with the tools he knows. Most lawyers probably haven't considered the technical solution.

      Besides, the technical solution doesn't generate income for them. Nastygrams and horrifically complex legal documents do. Why let the webmonkeys gearn money you could have?
    • is why they're trying legal (as in using the law) approaches to technical problems

      That's the symptom. The problem is that corporations these days think that they can get their lawyerbots to write up a 'linking policy' or whatever shit they feel like, post it on their site, and have it enforced as law.

      The scary thing is, many of them are right.
  • Linking vs Spam (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tmark ( 230091 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:38AM (#4111846)
    What i don't understand is how people can get up-in-arms when organizations attempt to prevent people from linking to their site, yet at the same time lament the increase of spam in their inboxes.

    It seems to me that three of the linchpins of the arguments for, say, making spam illegal are 1) the email was unsolicited, 2) the spam potentially interferes with "legitimate" emails, and 3) the downloading of spam can force the recipient to incur costs he did not intend to.

    These arguments can be made for unsolicited/unapproved deep-or-otherwise- linking. Often links to websites - and the manner in which they are linked - imply a relationship or endorsement of a website that an organization might not accept. Unauthorized links to websites can interfere with normal traffic to that website, at times bringing such services down, - as surely users of Slashdot know. And moreover, unauthorized links - again, as from Slashdot - can force users to incur not-insubstantial bandwidth costs.
    So from this analysis, if making spam illegal is a desirable goal - and it seems to be from the cheers here whenever charges are pressed against spammers - then I think it's difficult to simultaneously rationalize and argument against companies' attempts to control linkage to their sites.
    • Re:Linking vs Spam (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LordNimon ( 85072 )
      When you put a web site up, then you invite everyone to visit it. But just because I have an email address, doesn't mean that I invite everyone to send me email. Your analogy is invalid.
    • Re:Linking vs Spam (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bruthasj ( 175228 )

      Linking is a mechanism to increase the knowledge and understanding about a particular area of interest that a user is currently browsing. Spam is utter trash that means nothing to most.

      Linking benefits all, whereas Spam benefits few. Both maybe unsolicited, but the increase in interconnections between ideas that linking provides outweighs this "weakness" by far.

      I find no difficulty in rationalizing or arguing the benefits of linking as compared to arguing against spam. Remember one rule of thumb about rationalizing: "The world is grey." Then you won't have any problems.

    • Re:Linking vs Spam (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @12:00PM (#4112035) Journal
      The difference is the burden of cost.

      A web site is pubilshed with the intent of being publicly viewable. While the /. effect (and similar problems from news sites) can cause problems, the content was placed there for public release and viewing. Generally web pages are placed on high-capacity ISP's. By publishing, you are explicitly offering it to the public. If the individual has a problem with their bandwidth agreement (such as automatically charging more rather than capping use) then it is the individual's problem, not the community's. It is of the form that the publisher pays to publish, and the viewer pays costs associated for viewing, and both consent to those fees.

      An email box is a low-bandwidth item where everything must be reviewed by hand. Spam is unsolicited and can cost a significant amount to the reciever without their consent.

      So in my view, posting and linking imply consent, spam is without consent. That's where the law should come in -- just like sex with consent is okay, but without consent is rape.


      • Unlike most I dont think there should be laws against spam: instead why not fix spam in a technical manner.

        One simple solution would be only to accept mail from only from's mailserver.

        Second would be to make it cost-innefective for the spammer: if your mail program required a handshake (such as a herbivore public-key exchange) and then an encrypted message content, The spammer would have to individually encrypt and send each email to each recipient. This would make spamming vastly unprofitable.

        There are many other solution such as these, and there should never be need for stupid laws. I see an smtp server as no different than an http one.

    • Re:Linking vs Spam (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Skapare ( 16644 )

      If someone comes to my site to get information, and if I describe what they might find on the internet, and point to where to find it, and it's a public method of access (e.g. not information on how to crack into someone's server), then I should be allowed to offer this information under the rights of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. A link is nothing more than information, and there is no crime implied by providing it (offering cracking information, for example, might well be a crime).

      Why web site owners whine about people linking should be what you fuss about. If they don't like the fact that the HTTP Referer: gives a URL they don't approve of, then they can reprogram their site to deliver something different, or deliver nothing at all if they wish.

      This might be different if the links were the kind to trick multitudes of web browsers into improper accesses. For example, if CmdrTaco were to hate some web site out there and wanted to cause it harm, he could stick in a few hundred 1x1 image references to the site's main page right here on slashdot and really clobber them. Imagine slashdot effect multiplied. But this isn't about that kind of linking. This is about the kind of linking that simply directs someone to visit another site for what is there.

      And this isn't about copyrights or trademarks. Sure, those things can often be infringed on by those doing the linking. If they improperly copy parts of thet target site, such as using images or icons from there, even just to form the link, then that is an infringement, but it is not the linking issue.

      Linking is not at all like spam as long as the information that describes the link is truthful and accurate. If I point to some page at some computer vendor site and say you can get fine warez there, that would be wrong. That should be prohibited. But if I deep link to the Linux section of, and say "This is IBM's Linux section", and IBM is offering it to the public, then I should be able to. Afterall, all that I am doing is simply saying to whoever visits my site, there is a place that IBM offers this information to the public. If IBM wanted to close it to say just subscribed customers with password access, I'd think someone there would know how to do it. If they don't want the link coming from, say, a Lolita Porn site, they can certainly suppress the link on their end and redirect it to say the main page, or their legal page, or bring up a blank page. I'd think someone there would be able to do it.

      The comparison to spam is all wrong. This is NOT a "push" issue like spam is. If I didn't want people to visit my site [], I'd take it down.

    • What i don't understand is how people can get up-in-arms when organizations attempt to prevent people from linking to their site, yet at the same time lament the increase of spam in their inboxes.

      Let's examine this. Often links to websites - and the manner in which they are linked - imply a relationship...
      The link itself does not. There are many links here on /., and the ones that have a relationship are clearly separated from the ones that don't. Going after links that inappropriately imply a relationship is actually a job for the lawyers.

      And moreover, unauthorized links - again, as from Slashdot - can force users to incur not-insubstantial bandwidth costs.
      Bandwidth costs from spam don't relate to this. An email user has to download all of his email before finding out that 9/10 of it is spam. A webmaster is putting up pages for public viewing, understanding that this wiewing will affect his bandwidth.

      The NYT can't expect to control the way that I read their paper, can it? They get just as much credit for their content it I go through their front page as if I jump to the story from /.'s front page. Why does it matter?

    • Q: Which of these scenarios results in higher bandwidth costs?

      A. A mandated link to the home page, where a user then has to mill about the site, trying to find the page they're looking for
      B. A (deep) link to the exact page containing the information of interest

      This makes me wonder if something else is going on here. Is it possible that sites with policies against deep linking experience more overall traffic?

      Policies against deep linking (though I'm sure there are exceptions), constitute poor implemention of a web site. In other words, if I can't link to any of the pages individually - or visit the site through such links - it's probably not worth my time in the first place. The link, after all, is one of the primary elements that distinguishes the web from other types of media.
  • Search (Score:2, Informative)

    I hope all these nancies who publish stuff on the web but don't want it linked to have set-up robots.txt appropriately.

    There isn't much difference between a website linking to you, and a result page of a search engine.

    For the unitiated, robots.txt is a text file you can place in the root directory of your web site that advises search engines not to index various parts of your site. More info at
  • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:40AM (#4111862) Homepage Journal
    Don't Link to Us! links to sites that attempt to impose substantial restrictions on other sites that link to them. The Linking Policy for Don't Link to Us! precludes us from requesting permission to link to a site, and compels us to link directly to the targeted page (i.e., a "deep link") rather than to a site's home page. Descriptions of sites' linking policies generally are accurate (though often not complete) at the time they are posted here but are likely to change over time. On occasion a web site will modify its linking policy in response to public ridicule. Perhaps their appearance in Don't Link to Us! will help encourage some of these sites to move forward into the 20th century.

    Rock on, dude.

  • by fungus ( 37425 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:44AM (#4111899)
    The famous website The Register prohibits linking to its stories... Seems to be only from their own ISP, but I have no time to investigate further.

    Link to the Kuro5hin article []
  • So stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Restil ( 31903 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:44AM (#4111901) Homepage
    Deep linking is one of those "it doesn't matter" issues. Is it legal to stop people from posting deep links? Can it be legally enforced? Who cares? 30 seconds with the web server configuration and the entire problem is solved forever. It would be like suing google for posting links to the site, without even going to the effort of adding a robots.txt file.

    I get the feeling that its not the IT departments of these companies that are making these demands. I can't imagine that they would be so hopelessly inept as to propose such solutions to problems that can be easily solved without ever talking to a lawyer.

  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ ( 559379 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:44AM (#4111904) Journal
    ASCAP! The mafia that controls music. There's a great story at wired about's links to radio stations [].

    ASCAP wanted them to fork over royalty fees even though the music wasn't archived on their site! The links were clearly denoted as external.

    Then again this isn't suprising behavior considering that ASCAP tried to strongarm the girl scouts into paying royalties for songs sung around the campfire [].
  • another site besides Slashdot []? I would encourage all to post links to everything you find that you cannot link to in this thread.

    FYI: These guys [] have a lot of trademarks: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z. And if you use one of them you'll get sued. Later,
  • Whats next? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cumorehe ( 105484 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:46AM (#4111921)
    Requiring people to get permission before citing sources in bibliographies?
    • Wrong analogy. Linking to a website sends you straight to the source. There's not much like it in a non-electronic form. That's why the Hypertext method of formatting information is so innovative. Because it *is* innovative.

      It would be like you're writing a book, you mention a topic and provide the reference embedded entirely within that book. Except that embedded copy is a valid copy because it is the true and original copy.

      • huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by battjt ( 9342 )
        <a src="">bruthasj</ a> doesn't not have a copy of your webpage. It give instructions on how to see the information from your web page, just like a bibliography points to source data for an article.

        A robotic text reading robot librarian could be like a browser. It could recognize bibliographical entries and fetch the book for you. This isn't a source issue, it is a browser issue. should sue MS for writing IE because it automatically gets data from
    • No off course not. Your analogy is flawed.

      You meant: "Requiring people to get permission before citing the relevant pagenumbers in sources in bibliographies."
    • Hmm.. interesting point. You don't have to get permission to cite a book or publication, but you DO if you are going to republish or even quote large portions of someone else's work. So the question is, is a deep link more like a citation or a republishing of the page? I'd vote for a citation like you've suggested, but "framing" as discussed in the npr [] article does seem like republishing someone else's work and should probably require permission.
      • None of the above.
        You are not copying anything from the source,
        you are writing, with an anchor tag, where to find the information.
        The browser is the one which actually provides you with an easy way of going there.
        It is just an automated way of loading the web page instead of copy/pasting its adress and pressing enter.
  • by bigmouth_strikes ( 224629 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:48AM (#4111932) Journal
    Wednesday, August 14, 2002
    Note: This site exceeded its bandwidth allocation, and so I'm in the process of moving it to a new hosting service
    I think he might be in for a surprise performance test just one week later.
  • I'm not surprised that would have such a policy, then claim they knew nothing about it. There's a lot of incompetency going on over there. Even their web page itself sucks with crappy HTML. They probably have a couple of high schools kids who want to show off their Javascript leetness doing the site.

  • Am I thick? Or is this tragically stupid?

    Other sites, such as the American Cancer Society, say restrictions on deep linking are in the best interests of people seeking information.

    "Our policy is nothing out of the ordinary," American Cancer Society spokesman David Sampson said. "We like people to go through the main page so they find out about the right cancer, and they see the broad range of information we have here. Our aim is to support people as advocates, lead them to support groups, which if people go to a page on a new medicine, they don't see."

    Uh. ... wha!?
  • From the TOS:
    Use of any robot, spider, other automatic device, or manual process to monitor or copy our Web pages or the content contained herein is strictly forbidden.
    Yet they don't have a robots.txt, and here's the google cache []. So when do they sue google?
  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:53AM (#4111968) Homepage
    With over half the traffic to content-full sites coming in from search engines which my their nature deep link, it's vital for webmasters to use tools like Apache's mod_rewrite [] to be sure to present the content in the context you desire. By combining this with functions in scripting languages such as PHP you can make absolutely certain that you (1) welcome visitors however they arrive and (2) let them know exactly where they are, with navigation options that will lead them further into your site, rather than the referrer's.

    The point isn't to send the people away who, through no fault of their own, don't arrive by the front door. The point is to convert them to your own customers.

  • One response (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AlecC ( 512609 ) <> on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @11:55AM (#4111981)
    I checked through some of the links to try to find out why some of these sites don't want to be linked to. On thing that came out is that there is a mass of confused thinking and motivation out there. So don't expect a clean solution to this problem. A solution which will satisfy one set of paranoid suits will not satisfy the others.

    One of the reasons is that they fear that the appearans of a link from you to them implies some sort of reciprocal approval i.e. that they know of and might be assumed to approve of you. Now, to anyone here, this is absolutely dumb, but corporate zecks and AOLers might not know better.

    So here is an idea of how to deal with them. When they post court papers (which are surely public documents), post a reciprocal set of papers requiring them to remove your name, addresss, URL etc. from their papers because they imply they you endorse them etc. Use wording as close as possible to theirs and petition that your case be heard first.

    One of two things happen: either the court is sensible and throws out your petition as riduculous, in which case you return with that rejection as a precedent, set in the same court, to justify your linking. Or the court grants your loony case, in which case (by the court's own loguic) they have to withdraw their case against you.
  • Once again, clueless companies try to thwart the technology (i.e., linking) instead of dealing with the real issue, disagreeable or illegal speech. If a hostile third party links to your site in a defamatory way (e.g., "<link>this guy</link> is a psychopath"), the issue is defamation, not linking. If they frame your site so it appears to be something else (e.g., suppose NBC framed ABC's pages and put NBC logos on them), or nastily embeds your photograph onto their web site endorsing their products, etc., these are likewise ordinary legal issues with analogs in the offline world, not linking issues.

    If somebody links to you in a derogatory -- but not libelous -- way, that's a bummer, but it's legal. Hey, you can always do the same back to them. :-)

  • Web pages let you link to other web pages. That's basically how the Internet works. If you don't like it, use some other medium. Build your own Internet that doesn't let you link to other web pages.

    If you want to prevent deep links, here's two suggestions:

    1. Don't use HTML. Maybe the American Cancer Society can build an elaborate Shockwave web presence.
    2. Don't have links. Maybe can just put all of their content on one huge webpage.
  • I work at one of the companies mentioned in the "Don't link to Us!" web site and I wasn't aware of the policy. Methinks I may have to post a message on one of the group message boards asking about this policy :) I don't have any job security anyway (I'm a contractor) so who cares?
  • Simple Solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by DigitalSorceress ( 156609 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @12:23PM (#4112195)
    Well, there is a simple solution... if you run a web site and don't want links to yours, use Apache and install mod_rewrite. Then it's a simple matter of defining rewrite rules in your base .htaccess file that check the HTTP_REFERER value - if your own domain (or any authorized domain you wish to define) is not in your list, the user can either be redirected to your home page (stop deep linking only) or to a "don't link to us" page, or direct to a 403:

    Hree's my favorite - created for a friend who didn't want folks including her images in their siges by link:

    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://foo\.com/.*$ [NC]
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} /image_directory.* [NC]
    RewriteRule .*\.jpg /graphics/linked.gif

    This one should just give the bugger a 403 if they link directly to anything on your site - might have to add exclusionary logic for the home page to avoid locking everyone out.

    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://foo\.com/.*$ [NC]
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$ - [F]
  • (now Senator) Maria Cantwell's campaign against (then Senator) Slade Gorton.

    Her campaign found this absolutely goofy ass picture on Slade's website. So they deep linked to the picture on the front page as part of some bit about Slade's environmental record.

    When Slade's campaign first noticed it, his campaign manager first claimed copyright violation and then claimed Maria's people had hacked Slade's website.

    Eventually, the technical people at Slade's campaign caught on and replaced the goofy image with an "Elect Slade Gorton" type graphic that invited people to go to his official website.

    Maria's campaign removed the deep link and that was the end of the matter.
  • What is 'linking'? The act of creating an 'a href' tag? The posting of that tag on a publicly accessible site? The act of clicking on a 'link'?

    I can AIM '' to someone - I've not 'made' a link. AOL's AIM client makes it into a link. Same for most email clients. The person who wrote in an email didn't 'make' a link - the email software I chose to use created it for me.

    So, it seems that instead of 'linking', there needs to be a clearer definition. 'Don't visit us without our express written permission' might be clearer.

    I'm interested to know how many of these same companies with these stupid 'linking policies' have links on their intranets to common websites that also have stupid 'linking policies'.
  • I've seen a lot of emotion-filled comments and speculation about this topic, but let's try and consider this seriously for a second.

    I'm not going to address the technical side of this - we all know how easy it is to prevent linking, or whatever. We also know, if you have static HTML pages, there's no way to prevent someone from linking to them.

    Why, exactly, is any website _required_ to permit another page to link to it? I have yet to see a _real_ answer to this question. ("Because they should" is not a real answer, neither is "because they can't stop you".)

    Suppose, for a second, that I run Joe's Widget Company. I sell widgets. Jack Sixpack has this great idea for a gadget which uses my widgets. He advertises this on his site, and provides a link back to my site. Suddenly, however, Jack's gadgets go horribly wrong and cause people bodily harm. People will think that I endorsed his use of my widgets. (People _will_ think that, regardless of how stupid it may seem). Sure, I could put a disclaimer on my site, saying "I do not endorse Jack's use of my widgets", but that assumes I know about it. Why should I have to search the web every week or so to find a new link to my site, check out the linking site, and see if I need to post a disclaimer? That takes time and time is money.

    And in today's litigation-happy society, one needs to cover one's ass more than ever. If you know exactly who links to your site, you have a defense against any false endorsements, or incorrect statements or whatever. If a linking site suddely changes what they have to say about you, you tell them not to link to you anymore. Sure, they may do it anyway, but at least you can say "Sorry, your Honor, but we told them to remove that link."

    Certainly attempting to use legal methods to enforce linking policies won't work. However, there's nothing wrong with asking people who desire to link to a site to fill out a form or email the webmaster. It's common courtesy. It also provides a paper trail if commercial activity is involved.

    And then there's the bandwidth factor. Say I have this really cool Lego Mindstorms project that I want people to see. I put up some pictures on my web page and point some friends at it. Then it gets picked up by Slashdot, where thousands of people all attempt to view it at the same time, which uses up my monthly bandwidth allocation in exactly 2 minutes, and causes my computer to melt. That's quite unfortunate for me. I think I should have been asked beforehand, and then given the opportunity to maybe find some mirrors, or let Google cache it , or something.

    This, of course, is where people might say "Don't post stuff on the web if you don't expect people to look at it." or "Get a connection that allows you more bandwidth." Any intelligent person knows that these are not acceptable answers for the average user. If I post something on a page, I expect a few people to look at it, but I don't expect (nor should I have to) a million people to attempt to view the page all at the same time, without prior warning.

    All this "Fuck you, I'll link to whatever I want" attitude is lame and counter-productive. It will only serve to discourage people from posting cool things on computers that have slow connections or limited bandwidth. Sure, if it's something like, or C|NET, or the New York Times, we know their servers can take a lot of hits. But if it's some guy who posted a cool case mod on his computer connected by MediaOne or whatever, then give him a break, and send him a quick e-mail before you link to it. It's just common courtesy. But then again, common courtesy seems to be non-existant these days.
    • You're fighting idiocy with more idiocy. You acknowledge that people WILL think stupid stuff, regardless of the facts/logic involved. So you think a disclaimer someplace is going to suddenly make everyone see sense? If you're REALLY that concerned about the potential involved, and you have some knowledge of potential risks, it's your fault if you don't take reasonable steps to CYA. In this case, reasonable means proactive *technical* steps.

      If you knew the lock on a home's front door was broken or non-existent, do you think you'll get much sympathy from people when that home is broken in to, regardless of the 'keep out' signs that were posted. Sure, those signs were an assumed 'contract' between someone at the front door and the door's owner, but the fact that the lock was broken and the owner had knowledge of it can not be overlooked or played down.

      But if it's some guy who posted a cool case mod on his computer connected by MediaOne or whatever, then give him a break, and send him a quick e-mail before you link to it. It's just common courtesy.

      No, it's a waste of time, but if that's what you want to do, fine. Many of the 'i want to link to you' things I get are autogenerated 'emarketing' letters anyway that get caught by spam filters, so I never see them. The person who runs a 'cool' site on 14k dialup isn't the type of person who has a 'don't link to me' policy and a legal team to bother to write it in the first place, so what's the point? Oh yeah, your courtesy. Just realize most people running sites that have content worth linking to either don't have time to answer those types of emails (and don't care if you link) or will have stupid guidelines which may prohibit you anyway. In either case, it's usually a waste of time.
    • Why, exactly, is any website _required_ to permit another page to link to it?

      A site isn't required to permit linking, and that's the whole point here. Linking just happens, as does bookmarking, sending a URL to a friend, a colleague, or a mailing list, or URL guessing. If you put something on the Web, it will be used by people unknown to you in ways you can't anticipate. That's reality; Jakob Nielsen even considers the URL as UI [].

      Linking just means to tell each other about things one can do or find on the Web. Simple, isn't it? There really is no further meaning of a link. There could be, if we had a common system of link types, but we don't have that. So a link just says: It might be worthwhile to let your Web client software retrieve whatever it finds under address XYZ. (What will those lawyers say if somebody links to a non-existing page on a site that tries to forbid linking?)

      Moreover, standard Web technology is built upon the idea of a worldwide hypertext system co-operatively created by independent entities. This is clearly expressed in the RFC, though not in typical disclaimer-style legalese. If one doesn't like that technology, one is free to choose something else.

      Trying to forbid linking on the Web means trying to change reality without really changing it, somehow. Sure, lawyers could claim and courts could rule that Pi equals four, pigs can fly, and the moon is made of green cheese. They just have to accept that average people call them crazy, and ignore them. I think that's all this is about.

    • Providing a link to another site is simply providing information, and unless that information is illegal (e.g. how to crack into a server), then this is just an expression of information which should be under protection of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. If you don't want me to be making that expression, then either don't make that information available in the first place (e.g. don't have that page up), or make it useless. But suppressing my right to free speech is wrong.

      Your argument about people assuming you endorse a product is really inappropriate. I do know that often the law uses this, but it is stupid. We should not be making decisions on how we conduct commerce on the basis that a few stupid people won't understand something. The way to cut back on the excesses of litigation is for people to stop trying to blame other people for their failures.

      There's nothing wrong with asking linkers to fill out a form or supply an email address. But that is asking. I believe there is no basis for prohibiting it, so asking is all it is. Telling someone you link to them is a courtesy. Unfortunately, courtesy these days often gets you threatened or even sued. So it is dangerous to do that.

      If you have a friend who takes your private URL and posts it on Slashdot, maybe you should reconsider who your friends are. Give them all different URLs to the same page and you can find out which one screwed you over.

      Now I can understand you having these problems on your personal web site. But when we're talking about large corporations, where most of these "don't link to us" chilling effects demands come from, this is not even applicable. They have massive bandwidth that even Slashdot can barely ding. It's not about your little web site that you give out to friends; it's about linking useful information so it's easier to find for the people who happen to be interested in it.

  • At least this case [] of deeping linking threat turned out better. But they still have problems with pinheads running the place at Belo, as the policy [] is still there for their flagship newspaper.

  • my comment (Score:3, Funny)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @12:47PM (#4112398) Homepage Journal
    hi, welcome to my comment. if you are reading this comment, then you must have web surfed through slashdot to get to it. web surfing is a strange, complex, newfangled technical concept that you may not understand, because i certainly don't understand it myself. that's why i publish my comments to this weird web surfing place to begin with. see?

    the point is i don't allow people to web surf to my comments. i only explicitly allow people to view my comments who contact me first. that is why i post comments on slashdot in the first place. do you get it?! good, because i don't. but i have the right to dictate to you how it works even though i don't understand it. ok?! ok?!

    now that you have read this comment, please email me and get permission first before you read this comment in the first place! understand?! no???!!! DO I HAVE TO SUE YOU NOW?! ;-P
  • What I would like to see is to have these sites removed by Google and Yahoo. Then they will get what they wish for.... no traffic.

    What's next? We will not be allowed to bookmark these sites? After all, saving a bookmark is just saving a link. Or maybe a big "DO NO READ" warning.

    • My thoughts exactly - if these web sites don't want people to link to them, then the search engines and directories should do exactly that. Remove all the links to those sites, and perhaps replace them with little text screens stating that they cannot give the user a link or URL to that site, because that site forbids links to it.

      I would suspect when they see the amount of traffic on their site diminish, and someone with a clue sees the message on Google or whatever and realizes what the no-linking policy means, then things might change.

      They should get what they want - no links to the sites, and the inability of users to locate them.
  • Have a look at how The Register ISP doesn't let you link to some stories on The Register. []

    In answer to the mealy mouthed reply from The Register that they won't enforce that policy, I can only say: then don't have that policy.

  • All along, I've been trying to promote my site by encouraging people to link to it. Now I see. If I just forbid people to link to my site I will get some links to it. Yes!
  • I seem to have read in more than one place recently that empirical evidence suggests that linking to your site, especially from other highly linked/ranked sites is a major factor in Googles ranking for search results. Thus if people actually respect these sites wish's they will eliminate themsleves from the HTTP gene pool.....
  • by beaverfever ( 584714 ) on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @01:28PM (#4112767) Homepage
    I'm never going to profess to be an expert on this topic, but here's my take on it:

    It's not illegal for me to refer you to Joe's Pizza. I could also tell you where Joe's Pizza is and supply you with directions. I could also tell you where to find the Joe's Pizza menu (for example's sake, on the counter by the cash register, in the restaurant).

    So where's the difference if:

    My website refers you to Joe's Pizza website, and I supply you with directions (which in the context of the internet is providing a URL) and I tell you where to find Joe's Pizza menu (propviding a deep link).

    If Joe doesn't want you coming in his restaurant, he can deny you entry, and it's the same with the website, but is there any legal ground for a person or business to prevent another person or business from making references, regardless of whether they are hypertext links or word of mouth? Couldn't this almost be a constitutional issue?
  • Do these sites think that people will just randomly type in their address without searching for it? You know they're going to search engines, and they'll link to the site...and that violates their asinine policy.
  • When I copy/paste an adress into the browsers adress bar and then press enter.
    This is perfectly legal, no?
    So how can it be any different if this task is accomplished automatically by a computer?!?

    When you right an anchor tag in html, it is the SAME thing as if you say "reference: book XYZ page 32 par. 4".
    The ONLY difference is that the content is electronic instead of being on paper.
    And that you do not have to open the book yourself
    And that is the purpose of the internet.

    Those who claims otherwise are missing the point.
    A website is NOT like a store, into which you HAVE to enter by the front door, instead of breaking a window.
    It is just an arrangement of documents, which happen to be electronics, with which you are able to have a certain level of interactivity.
  • Grrr!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Com2Kid ( 142006 ) <> on Wednesday August 21, 2002 @02:13PM (#4113202) Homepage Journal
    Once again, western ideals here folks. Lots of sites in Japan have very explict no linking policies, and it is considered perfectly polite to make such requests (and down right rude to not obey them!)

    While I will admit that commerical sites with no linking policies /is/ rather st00pid, the fact is that:

    The site belongs to the owner

    The owner is paying for bandwidth and hosting

    The owner can invite who ever they want on to their site.

    Now granted /sueing/ over such issues is rather stupid, but if some site sends you a 'please take down your link to our site' letter then hey, it IS their site. They where actualy nice enough to warn you, they could have just shoved up a HTTP referer block and said screw you to your content. (admitedly many of the idiot admins who do the cease and desist letters are to stupid to figure out how to do such but. . . . heh)
  • by tsg ( 262138 )
    I remember reading someplace that the Communications Act of 1934 made it legal to receive any signal that was broadcast. I may be wrong, and I know most (if not all) of the Communications Act of 1934 has been superceded, but the point is, we need someone, somewhere to make a ruling that says if you are publishing information on the Web and not preventing deep links through technical means, then it is legal to link to those pages directly.

    All the arguments showing how deep linking can be abused are flawed. They are the same arguments that the media companies used when lobbying for the DMCA. "It could be used to steal content, therefore it should be illegal." "Deep linking might be used to slander somone so it should be illegal".

    There are technical means of stopping people from entering your website except through the front door. If you don't want deep linking, then use steps to prevent it. Otherwise, we are going to assume that it's okay.
  • Interesting that this story should be posted on /. since I have recently become embroiled in a linking controversy with my university. I and another student have started a small business where students can sell their used textbooks on consignment near campus (off campus because the university's bookstore, owned by Follett [] has been granted a monopoly on the university grounds). We needed to "deep link" to a university webpage explaining changes in the class numbering system, but are reportedly on the verge of being served with legal action against us for doing so.

    As students, we obviously cannot afford a protracted legal action against us by a university intent on defending Follett's monopoly. Should we copy the content of the university page onto a page of our own (with modifications), or continue linking? We have looked but not found the university's linking policy. Do we actually need permission to link?
  • Dearth of Clue (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shadowspar ( 59136 )

    From CIBA's linking policy []:

    Terms and Conditions

    1. You may download, display or print information from this Site (the "Information") solely for non-commercial personal use.

    2. You must retain and reproduce each and every copyright notice or other proprietary rights notice contained in any Information you download. You may not, however, distribute, modify, transmit, reuse, repost, or use the content of the Site for public or commercial purposes, including the text, images, audio, and video without written permission of CIBA Vision. You should assume that everything you see or read on this Site is copyrighted unless otherwise noted and may not be used except as provided in these Terms and Conditions or in the text on the Site without the written permission of CIBA Vision.


    6. Any communication or material you transmit to the Site by electronic mail or otherwise, including any data, questions, comments, suggestions or the like is, and will be treated as, nonconfidential and nonproprietary. Anything you transmit or post becomes the property of CIBA Vision or its affiliates and may be used for any purpose, including, but not limited to, reproduction, disclosure, transmission, publication, broadcast and posting. Furthermore, CIBA Vision is free to use any ideas, concepts, know-how, or techniques contained in any communication you send to the Site for any purpose whatsoever including, but not limited to, developing, manufacturing and marketing products using such information.

    So, by the same logic, I'll just insert into my HTTP request:

    HTTP Policy:
    Any communication or material you or your web server transmit to this computer, by HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, or otherwise, including any data, multimedia, computer code, or the like, is, and will be treated as, nonconfidential and nonproprietary. Anything so transmitted becomes the property of myself and my affiliates and may be used for any purpose whatsoever, including, but not limited to, reproduction, disclosure, transmission, publication, broadcast, modification, redistribution, or reverse engineering. Furthermore, I am free to use any data, text, logos, trademarks, or correspondence contained in any communication you send to me for any purpose whatsoever including, but not limited to, satire, parody, and general mockery.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban