Whatever you do, don't link to our website

Would you believe that in 2010, there are still websites that forbid linking to them? If you think it's odd to try and prevent others pointing to pages they've made freely accessible to the public, it's odder still to see who is doing it. For example, The Independent, an ad-supported newspaper whose business requires and promotes exactly this sort of inbound linkage, says that "Third parties must not deep-link to" any part of the website. The Times' recently paywalled website doesn't even want you to send potential customers its way: "linking to the Website is prohibited." Malcolm Coles offers a selection of similarly bizarre and unenforceable terms posted by websites.

Iceland's paper of record bans linking

MorgunblaĆ°iĆ°, Iceland's oldest newspaper and most-visited website (now co-edited by the former prime minister and head of the central bank) has just announced an anti "deep linking" policy saying that Icelanders aren't allowed to link to individual pages on the site, only the front door. Which is to say, the people of Iceland can no longer talk about any news online unless it happens to still be on the front page of the newspaper. Ah, there's the commitment to public service that makes journalism so critical to a free society! (Thanks, Halli!)

Texas court says deep-linking is copyright infringement

In an update to Xeni's post last month, Out-Law.com reports that the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas found a website owner guilty of copyright infringement for linking to an another website's audio file without permission
[Robert Davis, who runs Supercrosslive.com] argued that he did not actually copy any material, he only provided a link to it which opened the material in a user's media player, but the court ruled that that link broke the law.

"The court finds that the unauthorized 'link' to the live webcasts that Davis provides on his website would likely qualify as a copied display or performance of SFX’s copyrightable material," said Lindsay. "The court also finds that the link Davis provides on his website is not a 'fair use' of copyright material as Davis asserts through his Answer."

Link (Thanks, Kelly!)

Cory on fan-made radio podcasts: "What deep linking means."

My co-editor Cory Doctorow weighs in on the debate surrounding This American Life's decision to tell fans that they may not publish podcast code pointing to archived audio files hosted on TAL's website. Previous BB posts: one, two, three, and here Cory responds to arguments posed by "Radio Open Source" producer Brendan Greeley. Both TAL and ROS are distributed by Public Radio International (PRI). Cory says:
Brendan, I was disappointed to see your letter to Xeni in which you argued that deep-linking should be prohibited. The question of whether a copyright holder has the right to control who gets to publish the location of his files is a simple one to answer: he should not. If you believe that a copyright holder has to the right to decide who is allowed to tell you where his publicly available files live, you're saying that all the other user rights in copyright -- parody, samplying, criticism, etc -- are necessarily at the rightholder's sufferance. These rights can't be exercised without the fundamental freedom to repeat the true fact about the location of this file or that. You -- and everyone else who borrows liberally from the blogosphere, myself included -- are a tremendous beneficiary of the principle that has prevailed since the first web-page went live: no one can control inbound linking by legal means. This is in the RFC for the Web. It's in the RFC for the RSS. I don't buy for one second the argument that because this challenges your ability to turn your radio program into something else, the entire web should change directions and adopt a new norm: "You may only include a hyperlink if the person who controls that file isn't worried about his business-model." There are LOTS of people who could have new business-models if fundamental internet freedoms, like the freedom to link to any URL that will serve back a page, were abolished or rewritten. A competitor to Google that hired a million phone-monkeys to make sure that they had *permission* to link to everything in the search-engine's database could come into existence with a radically reduced index and then get the law to get rid of the superior resource we have in Google. I respect your desire to move to "other platforms" but if the platform you're headed for is the Web, you need to actually formulate a coherent plan that doesn't start by removing the Web's most fundamental premise: that anyone can link to anything. The plan you seem to have formulated, one where I can't include a URL from your server without your permission, is NOT a Web-platform business-model. It's a business model that throws out the Web in favor of an AOL-style network. No one but TAL (or you) is making any files available if I publish an RSS feed with your deep links in them. Describing hte location where a file lives is not making them available -- not in the legal sense, or the technical sense, or the commonsense sense. I hope you'll reconsider this idea and look beyond the immediate interest of wanting to be able to maximize your show's gain and to the health of the Internet and the open source ethos whence you have taken your inspiration. And further to this: If someone decided to grab our publicly available, CC-licensed mp3 files and re-distribute them in a different way than we'd planned (say, filtering out everything but shows about Iraq) I can imagine we'd have a problem with it. First of all, you have gravely misunderstood what CC licenses permit. You have granted permission for someone to do *exactly* this by using a CC license. Second of all, what if someone were to compile a printed index listing the URLs of all the shows that don't talk about Iraq? Do you seriously mean to say that you think that publishing such an index is wrong? All an RSS feed is is a collection of URLs. References.
Update: Brendan Greeley's reply after the jump.

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