NPR has revised its linking "policy." The revision seems like an improvement, but it's not — it's just as bad as it ever was. NPR still maintains that people who link to NPR's site require permission — the new policy merely conditionally grants that permission.
I'll say it again: The most harmful lie you can tell about the Web is that permission is a prerequisite for linking. There is no copyright interest in controlling how people reference your work.
The most ironic thing about this is that NPR maintains that the rationale for it is to maintain "the highest journalistic ethics and standards." Journalism is about telling the comprehensive and accurate truth. Here we have NPR knowingly promulgating a destructive myth, something not borne out by copyright law or practice.
People who respect NPR's journalistic integrity may be duped into believing this harmful lie (as was one friend who emailed me to tell me that NPR wouldn't have this policy if there wasn't some debate about whether there's a copyright interest in links). If they succeed in convincing their audience that there's an interest in controlling links, we don't have any basis for the Web.
I'm sending fresh mail to Jeffrey Dvorkin, NPR's ombudsman, to tell him what I think of this. I recommend that you do the same. I will also be withholding my donation from NPR until this policy is reversed. Much as I hold public radio dear, NPR's policy has the potential to irreparably damage the Web. I would give up a thousand NPRs for the WWW.
NPR encourages and permits links to content on NPR Web sites. However, NPR is an organization committed to the highest journalistic ethics and standards and to independent, noncommercial journalism, both in fact and appearance. Therefore, the linking should not (a) suggest that NPR promotes or endorses any third party's causes, ideas, Web sites, products or services, or (b) use NPR content for inappropriate commercial purposes. We reserve the right to withdraw permission for any link.
Once again, let's have a look at that:
- Therefore, the linking should not (a) suggest that NPR promotes or endorses any third party's causes, ideas, Web sites, products or services
You don't need a link policy to acheive this end. Someone who makes a fraudulent misrepresentation is committing a crime; your policy is irrelevant to the remedies you could seek in such an instance.
- (b) use NPR content for inappropriate commercial purposes.
Again, you don't need a policy for this. There are illegal commercial uses of NPR's programming; if someone breaks the law, the presence of this policy won't matter. As to "inappropriate" uses, who gets to define inappropriate? There are plenty of unauthorized, even impolite uses that are lawful. Prohibiting "inappropriate" uses is nonsensical, prohibiting unlawful uses is redundant.
- We reserve the right to withdraw permission for any link.
You can't withdraw that which you did not extend. I don't need your permission to link to your site. The absence or presence of your permission is irrelevant. There is no intellectual property interest in controlling the contexts in which your work may be referenced.