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You Can't Link Here 325

An anonymous reader writes "Last year several news sources reported about the website from David Sorkin, associate professor of law at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. His website fights 'stupid linking policies' that attempt to impose restrictions on other sites that link to them. Now a German law student joined the fight against linking restrictions and starts getting media attention in Germany. His list of stupid German linking policies can be found at the website Links & Law. Contrary to the model of, the German site refrains from linking to companies that prohibit linking without their consent. The site only states the URL of the websites with the linking policies. The page with the linking policies is in German, but the rest of the website is in English and covers many legal aspects of linking."
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You Can't Link Here

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  • by _Sambo ( 153114 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @06:42PM (#5043217)
    An unenforceable rule is almost always a stupid rule.

    More Stupid rules/laws can be found here. []

    The fact of the matter is that it's impossible to hold any but the largest of businesses to such a silly policy. If they really don't want people to link to their stuff, don't put it where the public can get to it.

    It's that simple.

  • by AuraSeer ( 409950 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @06:47PM (#5043245)
    Maybe somebody has an underpowered server, or pays a high rate for bandwidth usage. Such people would prefer to avoid a /.ing that would kill their mission-critical machine or drive them into the poorhouse. That's a perfectly valid reason to deny other sites permission to link.

    I fail to see why this is a free speech issue.
  • by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @06:59PM (#5043297)
    Maybe somebody has an underpowered server, or pays a high rate for bandwidth usage. Such people would prefer to avoid a /.ing that would kill their mission-critical machine or drive them into the poorhouse. That's a perfectly valid reason to deny other sites permission to link.

    OK, but American Express? ExxonMobil? Orbitz? New York Stock Exchange and American Stock Exchange? I sincerely doubt any of these sites have any bandwidth problems and if you do, tough cookies. Nobody is forcing you to host a public website. Put a password on it and force people to apply for a username and password to get access to your site. Sure, 99.999% of your customers will never bother but you won't have to worry about deep linking anymore. The web was built around hyperlinking information. If you start arbitrarily cutting those links to certain sites then the thing will collapse and be useless. So why even bother having a web site if you don't want anyone pointing to it?

  • by therealmoose ( 558253 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:11PM (#5043391)
    It's deep-linking that's the problem, not linking in general. It takes much more bandwidth to load the main page and click to the page you want then to just link straight to the page you want.

    The problem sites have is they want you to go through all the ads before you hit what you actually want, and hopefully get lost in the store or something, nothing to do with bandwidth.

  • Re:Hypocrisy ?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cyclometh ( 629276 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:11PM (#5043393)

    It's can hardly be seen as hypocrisy when you consider the difference between your personal phone line and private residential address and a web site ostensibly for providing information to the public.

    It gets even more silly to make this comparison when you look at how the WWW is intended to operate- the word "hypertext" isn't just fast words, it's about links. Requiring licenses to link is totally against the entire basis of the technology, and has been pointed out, patently absurd, as restrictions on linking are totally unenforceable in any meaningful sense.

  • Re:Hypocrisy ?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:12PM (#5043400)
    No. By linking to a site, you're not bugging the owner of the site (short of using a little bandwidth).
  • Re:Hypocrisy ?? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:13PM (#5043420)
    Email/telephone calls are personal (if we're not talking about commercial telephone/email address which I would say fall under the same rules as websites) and highly intrusive. Someone visiting a server isn't. I read (or atleast see) every email I get, and I hear the phone ring/answer it/get messages. When someone visits my website, I may see it in a log, but each time it happens, I don't get a notification. And each time someone makes a link to it, I may never find out! Making a link is a step removed from clicking on it. It's more similar to someone writing down my phone number.
  • by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:14PM (#5043421) Homepage Journal
    Maybe somebody has an underpowered server, or pays a high rate for bandwidth usage. Such people would prefer to avoid a /.ing that would kill their mission-critical machine or drive them into the poorhouse.

    In cases like that, you simply don't put stuff on the web. You don't use publically accessible protocols, like http. Use your own protocol, and don't share it with others.

    That's a perfectly valid reason to deny other sites permission to link.

    Stupidly wrong. The web is ALL about linking. If you don't want links, there is no acceptable way to rule them out, and no excuse for trying. As I've already said, if you don't want it to be linked to, don't put it on the web.

    In anything, if you want to participate, you have to follow the rules. One of the most basic rules on the web is that linking is ok.

  • Re:Hypocrisy ?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cyclometh ( 629276 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:16PM (#5043438)

    If you don't want people to read/obtain data on your web server, take it offline or put it behind some kind of access restriction. If it's a "public" web site, then I think the assumption should be that you want people to read it. The biggest difference is that for people to read your web site doesn't require your personal attention; you don't have to answer every HTTP/GET request individually, but you do have to answer your phone or let the machine get it.

  • by FamousLongAgo ( 257744 ) <> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:19PM (#5043460) Homepage
    I think you're missing the larger point. A hyperlink belongs to the person who creates it, not to the entity it points to. Saying otherwise is like saying I can't speak your name without your permission, or that I'm not allowed to send you a letter without your express permission..

    All a "linking policy" can logically be is some kind of policy a site has for adding/deleting links on its OWN website, not dictating which sites others can link from.

  • by EvilAlien ( 133134 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:29PM (#5043535) Journal
    We also need to take the time to recognize the contribution of incompetant judges to stupid laws.

    While we're sharing sites, don't forget Dumb Laws [].

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:31PM (#5043562)
    They're afraid of bad PR by association...

    Remember how got associated in Google as the #1 return for "Go to hell" for a while. That's because even though that phrase was nowhere on Microsoft's homepage, an organized effort of people associated that phrase with, so Google picked up on that and declared Microsoft the net's leading authority on going to hell..

    Now, that's a rather tame embarassment for a company that you could argue deserved it, but a lot of Men in Suits are affraid that they could be associated with even less desirable terms in a way that damages PR.

    The only problem is, "don't link to us" is about as legally valid as "don't talk about our website" which just isn't gonna fly.
  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:32PM (#5043572)
    >>It's not completely unenforceable. You just need to look at yer HTTP_REFERER log to see who is linking to you. Then you just bring up their site, print it out, and take it to the judge.

    And then the Judge says "show me where they agreed not to link to you" and throws the guy out of the court room.
  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:39PM (#5043607)
    Seriously if you dont want deep linkers just use flash or use some other worthlessly NON-Navigable page designs
  • Links (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m0rph3us0 ( 549631 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:40PM (#5043609)
    Hrmm... with a few mod rewrite rules any site that doesnt wish to be linked to can redirect the request.

    If they don't want links from a certain site just add another rule, if you don't want people accessing the site put a firewall up or password protect it. This silly business of linking laws is akin to me preventing people from making references to my businesses location. Or a grocery store owner preventing me from telling someone that the grocery store has Peanut Butter in isle 12.

    I think people really need to grow up, anything I don't want linked to I password or otherwise protect.

    Personally, I'd like to know what you would think if people started linking to unprotected SMB content.
  • by exhilaration ( 587191 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @07:53PM (#5043700)
    At the risk of violating the dmca, how can I block those HTTP refferer things? Does the browser produce them? It has to, right? Are there any browsers out there that allow you to "play" with that information?

    Why not simply put the destination site into every referrer you send? You'd be telling the site that you've already be there.

    I can't think of any specific reason to do that, just a fun exercise.

  • by ClipDude ( 31730 ) < minus cat> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @08:00PM (#5043754) Homepage Journal
    That's not even what's going on. It's more like if a company welcomed people into its store, then threatened people with legal action if they told others the address of the store or the locations of specific items in the store.

    As far as I am concerned, a link is like a card in a card catalog or a reference in a paper. It's just information about how to get someplace on the web, and nobody should be able to restrict another's dissemination of that information.
  • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @08:07PM (#5043795) Homepage Journal
    --yo, if any search engine doods are reading, please, take these websites' wishes to heart, don't have them show up in any of your searches! No links is "no links", give them what they want.


    that ought to sort things out better for the PHBs at these various webpages
  • by turingcomplete ( 633413 ) <slashdot.turingcomplete@net> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @08:12PM (#5043810) Homepage
    If corporations don't like the idea of people hyper-linking they should use a different protocol then http. It's that simple--if you use the web then you agree to the concept of hyper-linking. It's a foundation of the technology.

    If corporations find that http is too loose & free for their lawyers liking they can invent and use something else. They are trying to have it both ways--and in the process expropriate a public resource.
  • by zipwow ( 1695 ) <> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @08:53PM (#5044015) Homepage Journal
    Well, what do they mean by "disguises the URL"?

    If this is an extension of the "passing off", where you deep-link to their website and claim its your own work, then it seems fine.

    Or does it mean that every time I have to link to them, I have to show the full URL? This could be tedious, as seen in /.'s own style, which mimics the original purpose of links. Clicking on related words (not URLs in parenthesis) takes you to the content.

    It's not clear which is prohibited, which is the problem.

  • Re:Hypocrisy ?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kmellis ( 442405 ) <> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @10:16PM (#5044409) Homepage
    The difference is one of expectations and common sense, which matters in law. If you walk around in a city, you have no reasonable expectation that any given building you see is a public building. Most are private, not open to the public, and you know it. You look for explicit signs that indicate a public building to know that it's okay for you to enter it.

    Taken as a whole, the Internet is the same way. Most resources available are private, they are not presumed to be public. However, just like signs indicate that a building is public, an Internet protocol can by convention be presumed public, such as HTTP. Most HTTP servers not behind firewalls are public. Placing restrictions on entry, such as password requirements, can act as a "sign" indicating that something is not unrestricted. That's why you don't have a right to go trying to randomly log into telnet servers and password-protected web sites.

    I don't think these issues are particularly hard to figure out, but a lot of people seem to have trouble. That's because they often aren't taking common sense expectations into account and instead are arguing from strongly abstracted positions. The public/private building analogy is apt, because it forces one to think about why it is that it's pretty clear that you can't go walking into people's homes even though there's so many public buildings around. The same sort of common sense reasoning about where one has and doesn't have a right to wander in the real world applies in the virtual world.

    In this particular issue, these sites that want to prohibit deep linking fail to make convicing arguments because a) they're not actually controlling access to these pages and so there's a presumption that they're fully public; and, b) the whole argument is moot because linking is only a pointer and is not access in any sense.

  • by ShinmaWa ( 449201 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @10:16PM (#5044415)
    could also say that AE supports the devil or write an essay on how they bill people who owe $666 .00000003% more often. It is called freedom of speech/expression. I could also cite my works by saying I found it in Vol 5, chapter 2, page 123, par. 5 instead of saying 'check the library'.

    Yes, but that would be YOUR content, not using another's content directly off their webpage to give associated messages that they did not directly give.. and making them pay for it to boot. That ISN'T freedom of expression. That's theft of services.
  • by trauma ( 62841 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @10:54PM (#5044641)
    Many corporations of all sizes are very particular about controlling the manner in which information is presented. A mundane example is one whereby the price of an item for sale is revealed prematurely, before the sales pitch describing the benefits and language designed to preemptively overcome the objections of a prospective customer. The more general case is one of context; not that a particular piece of information might necessarily be misunderstood out of context, but more that information might be revealed without the "benefit" of carefully crafted supporting information and framework, i.e., "spin".
  • by zcat_NZ ( 267672 ) <> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @11:04PM (#5044694) Homepage
    Duh; referer can be used much more effectively to just break the damn link! Check the referer and if it's not yourself or an 'authorised' site, return a page saying deep linking isn't allowed. Or a 404. Or redirect them to Sure, referer is easily dissabled, but not by the person doing the linking. 99% of web surfers will return the correct referer so for all practical purposes this approach completely kills deep linking.

    To preventing framing there's a little javascript I've seen (somewhere; I didn't bookmark it) which checks if your're framed and reloads the page. I think you have to use javascript to open someone else's page in a frame anyhow; so either way you win.

    You can tell all of the major search sites to not cache and/or not index your page in robots.txt. I'm not sure why any commercial site would want to be NOT indexed by search engines, but wtf.. if you want it you only have to ask!

    It is utterly utterly STUPID to involve lawyers for something like this when there are such trivial technical solutions.

  • by cwsulliv ( 522390 ) <> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @11:38PM (#5044833)
    I view any attempt to legally enforce a policy forbidding me to deep-link into a publicly accessable website as an infringement of my constitutional rights of free speech. and free press. Would there be any question about this if I were to address an audience and verbally (or by handout) give them the deep URL?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 09, 2003 @01:39AM (#5045263)
    I work for a company with a new and sensitive concept, stepping all over a bunch of major company's feet. We're in the ink business. There are tons of ink companies on the internet that we don't consider competition - we have a direct-to-consumer model for shopping malls, and our retail website is a very minor sideline. We have become a recognized brand in Canada, and so some people have found it neccesary to link to us from their webpages.

    The practice of using redirectors and target pages has seen use of the exact META TAGS we have on our site. We have asked and successfully had a number of pages removed due to the copyright we carry on our specific meta tags. (eg. we're a franchising company, some online ink companies are using our exact meta tags including 'franchise' when they have nothing to do with any franchise)

    We have also had a few pages removed that link to our website within an html frame. everyone we ask is prompt to have the offending pages/links removed.

    It's in our best interest, as a growing company, to have as many pages pointing to our website as possible. Before I started there, they were attempting to set up a reciprocal link program. with the retailers carrying our products. It never happened, but anyways.

    My point being that linking is good - except for the big companies with issues.
  • AS funny as this is it actually wouldn't work in court. You cant say "if you do **** then you owe us a million dollars". Many of these :you may not link to us you may not read this from a machine with a hard drive or a cd burner or any form of non-volatile memory. Its like if someone says "by stepping into my store you are required to buy $100 worth of something. There are many posted requirments that would be throw own. Many of these conditions have to be agreed to.
  • by ratamacue ( 593855 ) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @08:46AM (#5046257)
    I'd like to point out the simple reason why these ridiculous laws exist: Government is a business operated by human beings who are driven by self-interest, just like every other human being. The primary objective of business is to profit and expand market share. Each and every one of these ridiculous laws does just that -- they increase the scope and cost of government (measured not just in tax dollars but civil liberty), thereby increasing profit and market share for those in power.

    Accordingly, the percentage of politicians who intend to expand the powers of government is much higher than the percentage who intend to limit the powers of government. Those who prefer to mind their own business and take responsibility for their own lives aren't nearly as interested in gaining power as those who want to control others. This is precisely why governments tend to expand throughout their existence, and precisely why the US government costs more today (in terms of both tax dollars and civil liberty) than it did in the past.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll