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Deep Linking

"Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us." --Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, "The One Un-American Act."  Nieman Reports vol. 7, no. 1 (Jan. 1953): p. 20.

Steal This Article . . . Please! (February 1, 2006)

"The courts eventually held, in that case, that what is now called "deep linking" is okay, but that you cannot deep link to the information of others and try to present it in a way that consumers might be tricked into thinking that it is your own content." 

Deep Linking: Legal Certainty in Germany While Debate Continues in the United States (September 11, 2003)

"However, with the exception of these issues and other particular circumstances, deep linking is now considered to be lawful under German law." 

See also Web Linking Need Not Cause Copyright Liability (July 14, 2003)

Scientology loss keeps hyperlinks legal (September 8, 2003)

The Church of Scientology has lost a courtroom battle to compel a Dutch writer and her Internet service provider to remove postings from a Web site, in a ruling that keeps hyperlinks to copyrighted material legal."

Web Linking Need Not Cause Copyright Liability (July 14, 2003)
"Federal Court Changes Course in Case. San Francisco - A federal appeals court on July 7 changed course in a closely watched case on the legality of linking on the World Wide Web, issuing a revised ruling siding with search engine against photographer Leslie Kelly. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had filed a brief urging the court to permit Web linking to copyrighted images. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' original ruling, issued in February 2002, caused a stir by saying that linking to a copyrighted photo on a website without permission violates the copyright owner's "public display" rights. The EFF urged the court to reconsider this portion of its ruling, arguing that the ruling against "in-line linking" threatened to transform everyday website activities into copyright infringements. Today the court withdrew the controversial portion of its opinion, leaving it to the lower court to take a fresh look at the issue. "Website owners can rest a bit easier about linking to copyrighted materials online," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "By revising its ruling, the court removed a copyright iceberg from the main shipping lanes of the World Wide Web." is a search engine that helps people find publicly available image files on the Web. For example, the Ditto website would show someone who enters a search for "sailboat" a selection of images of sailboats from around the Web. Ditto presented each image in a miniature form, known as a thumbnail, and provided links that would allow the searcher to open a full-size version of the image in a new web browser window. Leslie Kelly, a photographer, sued Ditto after Kelly discovered that Ditto had indexed his website and the images found there. In its original ruling, the Ninth Circuit found that's use of thumbnail images was allowed under the copyright law doctrine of "fair use," but held liable for copyright infringement for opening a new window to display the image. Numerous other Web search engines, including Lycos, Google, and Altavista, use this technique, known as "in-line linking" or "framing." Today, the court retained its earlier "fair use" ruling, but deleted the discussion of in-line linking. The case title is Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp., No. 00-55521, originally decided on February 6, 2002, and revised on July 7, 2003. Arriba Soft is the former name of Inc. Links."

Legal guru: We don’t need cyberlaws (September 20 2002)
“What about deep linking? What about it? I guess I don’t understand why everyone is so concerned about it. It’s an inherent part of the Web, in the same way that nouns and verbs are essential parts of speech. If you don’t want people linking to or accessing certain content on your Web site, you can implement whatever rules you want to in the design or configuration of your site. But if you put content in a public place with its own published address, it’s pointless to pretend that the address is a secret, and you shouldn’t expect the legal system to enforce that ridiculous notion. The same applies to ‘non deep’ linking. What really surprised me when I started my ‘Don’t Link to Us’ site was how many companies insist that other sites ask permission before creating any links to them at all, not just deep links to specific pages.”

Net lawyers ponder the right to link (September 10 2002)
“‘The whole point of putting information on the Web is to make it easier for people to access it, so companies should be thrilled that other sites want to link to them,’ explains [David] Sorkin.”

Don’t Link to Us!
“Stupid linking policies.”

Germany: Deep Linking Lunacy Continues
“The damage is incalculable for all Internet users, because the Internet is inoperable without searching engines.”

Deep Linking Takes Another Blow

“Using a search engine to locate stories on newspapers’ sites violates European Union law, according to a recent ruling by judges in Munich’s Upper Court.”

Deep Linking Lunacy (SearchDay, July 9, 2002 - Number 307, By Chris Sherman, Associate Editor, Search Engine Watch,
“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 within the works?”

Deep Link Foes Get Another Win
“‘The idea of a website only having one true and proper point of access is ridiculous,’ insisted Web marketing consultant Mark Fredricks from Toronto. ‘The Web was never intended to be separate ‘stacks’ of information.’” (Link gone; appeared in Wired)

Web site barred from linking to Danish newspaper Web sites
“Requiring permission before linking could jeopardize online journals, search engines and other sites that link — which is to say, just about every site on the Internet.”

NPR Retreats, Link Stink Lingers
“In response to furious criticism of its online linking policy, National Public Radio will no longer require webmasters to ask permission to link to But there are still limits on linking to the nonprofit radio network’s site. Links to NPR’s site ‘should not (a) suggest that NPR promotes or endorses any third party’s causes, ideas, websites, products or services, or (b) use NPR content for inappropriate commercial purposes,’ according to a new policy posted on Thursday [June 27, 2002].”

Deep Linking is Good Linking
“These sites understand what our study of e-commerce usability showed: Difficulties in getting from the homepage to the correct product page accounted for 27% of the failures (averaged across 20 sites). On average, better usability can double an e-commerce site’s sales, so preventing deep linking would eliminate about a quarter of the potential sales from visitors arriving from search engines. These visitors are the hottest leads because of their current, specific interest in your products; you really don’t want to lose their business.”

Deep Links Return to Surface
“‘The Internet consists of links, without the links there will only be stand-alone clones of information and services. Saying that other sites can’t link to your site is like being a member of a community and asking people not to talk to you.’” (Delio, M. (2002b, April 18). Deep links return to surface. Retrieved May 4, 2004.)

Big Stink Over a Simple Link
“‘Hyperlinking does not itself involve a violation of the Copyright Act,’ ruled U.S. District Judge Harry Hupp. ‘There is no deception in what is happening. This is analogous to using a library’s card index to get reference to particular items, albeit faster and more efficiently.’”

Attention Editors: Deep Link Away
“Hupp said deep linking is not illegal as long as it’s clear whom the linked page belongs to.”

Legality of ‘Deep Linking’ Remains Deeply Complicated
“‘You will have a chilling effect on all kinds of linking if you say that certain types of linking are bad,’” he said.

Can “Deep Linking” Lead to Deep Trouble?
“Until recently, the issue of deep linking seemed to belong to the Internet’s early days. After all, links are what makes the Internet so unique. In what was thought to be the seminal case over deep linking, rebuffed a challenge from Ticketmaster over its practice of linking to pages deep in the Ticketmaster site. The judge in the case ruled that deep links do not violate copyright law, so long as it was clear who is responsible for the material. In his opinion, the judge compared hyperlinks to a card index at a library.”

“‘I don’t think anything is new,’ said Isenberg. “‘I think the argument that deep linking is illegal or a violation of copyright law is a very difficult legal argument to make.’”

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