To Link, Or Not To Link?
That is the question...
Some of the squabbles and controversies in the Internet don't involve
anyone banning anything or suing anybody... they're simply disputes between
operators of different web sites over the matter of who should link to
whom. Some sites may resent getting linked as
"Useless Web Pages", "Worst of the Web", or "Babes on the Web" (all of which were
prominent sites in the early days of the Web, but don't seem to exist any more). Others might be seeking out
a link from some seemingly related site that refuses to do it for some seemingly
petty reason. But, most perniciously, there are occasions of governments
or litigious companies trying to use the legal system to force
somebody to remove a link they consider offensive.
Short of such dubious legal action, in the web, you have no control over who
links to you; there's no way to force anyone to add or remove a link to
your site. But you can protest any perceived injustices
along those lines by putting up your own web site about it, and that's
what people in this section have done!
Penn State has insisted that no other company or organization is
allowed to link to their site without permission. (Official
policy, which is also restrictive about what other sites can be linked to from Penn State pages.)
SEO company insists that people pull down links to client's site
because they think it causes penalties from Google (Link was to eyeglasses.com... so there!)
Update: In March, 2013, Michael Jonson, of the Anti Piracy Department of Guardlex company, sent the abuse department of my
hosting provider an e-mail urging them to get me to take down the above link, on similar grounds to the requests being criticized
here. It's probably an automated form letter generated on behalf of somebody who didn't actually read this page, so they wouldn't
see the extreme irony of such a request. No, linking to your client's site isn't any sort of "piracy", so go jump in the lake,
Michael Jonson of the Anti Piracy Department of Guardlex company.
London Olympic site insists you can't link to
them unless you follow their rules
LifeShield actually threatened to sue somebody for
linking to their site in a positive review!
The Lowes store chain actually has an agreement they expect
people to sign for permission to link to their site. I didn't sign it... so sue me!
A British organization called the "Newspaper Licensing Agency" is attempting
to collect royalties from people who hyperlink to newspaper articles on the Web.
The Jones Day law firm is pressing a claim that it actually violates their trademark rights for
journalists on other sites to link to their site when reporting about the activities of their lawyers.
See blog posting,
complaint, and amicus brief.
A Sheboygan, Wisconsin woman is suing the city
for a declaration that they were acting illegally when they earlier insisted that she wasn't allowed to link to
the city's police department official site on her own politically critical site.
terms of service that supposedly ban all "deep linking", so
I'm violating that policy by linking to their terms of service here. Go ahead and fucking sue me,
BusinessWeek! They're even telling people they wrote articles about not to link to them, as discussed
this news article.
supposedly prohibit all unauthorized links or references to it, like the one I'm making now.
This blog posting discusses it.
Don't Link To Us! ridicules stupid linking policies by
linking to all of the sites they can find that have them.
Wikipedia doesn't mind people linking to it, but some people there
get touchy about what gets linked to from there. A big debate proceeded about the propriety of linking
to so-called "attack sites", which criticized Wikipedia and hurt the feelings of its administrators.
See this essay (which I wrote).
Searching for "Jew" on Google currently gets you the antisemitic JewWatch
site. This offends many people, and some are demanding
that Google remove it from their (machine-generated) index. (Both the antisemitic site and the protest site against it
are inappropriately using .com domains for their entirely noncommercial projects, earning them places on
my Domain Hall of Shame.)
A German railway operator is suing
Google because that search engine links to a site that gives information on how to sabotage
their trains (among the millions of sites indexed by that search engine). While I don't support
sabotage, I don't think a search engine should be held legally responsible for the content of every
site they index, nor do I like Internet companies getting dragged into court in foreign countries over
material that might be protected by the First Amendment in the United States.
The Dallas Morning News is one of several companies and organizations that thinks it
can demand that people stop "deep links" to any page in their site other than the front page.
If somebody has a site (like mine) that discusses various cases (like this one), and wants to link
to news stories on it, like this one or
then if any of them are in the DMN (none of these are), they aren't supposed to link directly
to the article that's relevant -- rather, they're supposed to link to the front page and make the user
go through the menus of that site to try to find the article they want. The better to get hit with more
ads from DMN...
The Better Business Bureau is
that people who link to their website without permission remove all such
links. This goes completely against the established principle that
anybody on the web has the right to link to whomever they please.
So, screw you, BBB: I'm linking to you
with or without your permission!
Another in the parade of clueless companies and organizations that think they
can ban unapproved links to their site is KPMG,
a consulting firm that also has a rather clueless Web developer: their site comes up
as a horrible mess in the standards-compliant Mozilla browser.
According to this Wired
article and Slashdot
discussion, they're sending threatening letters to people who link to them without signing
an agreement. Like the BBB, they can kiss my ass... I'm linking
to them too. It's called the First Amendment, buster... live with it.
And yet another lawsuit
over linking without permission, this one in Denmark... as with the Dallas Morning News case,
this one concerns whether a news site can demand links only to
the home page, not "deep links" to individual stories. I know how useful it is for a Web site to
link to specific articles of interest instead of having to link to a home page and make the user
try to find the interesting article in the whole haystack, so I hope none of these cases ever
rule that doing this is a violation of the site owner's rights.
Even National Public Radio is now in the ranks of clueless
organizations trying to impose a ridiculous link policy... Wired
reports that they require permission for all links (deep or shallow) despite admitting that they have
no way of enforcing this policy.
Some people in Germany are being threatened
with lawsuits from some company that holds a German trademark on the name
"Explorer"; the company claims that links to a program called "FTP Explorer"
violate the trademark, and anybody who has such a link is liable. I notice
they're not going after people who link to Microsoft Internet Explorer;
I guess they just want to go after little guys they think can't fight back,
not Bill Gates!
page claims that "If you have reached this link via another webpage then they are in violation of GetHighTech, Inc. Copyright."
Alistair B. Fraser, the creator of Bagpipes Go To The Movies,
receieved the dubious distinction of having his site listed in Mirsky's
Worst of the Web (no longer online). Some who achieve this "honor" are proud of it, but
not Fraser; he's steamed that less-than-serious onlookers are coming to
his site as a result of these links. He posted a discussion (since removed)
on this topic. But he didn't stop there; he programmed a Bozo Filter (also since removed)
the site when following links from "bad" sites like Mirsky's. (Of course,
to 2.0 or the Prodigy browser, you're blithely unaffected and can surf
on into the site even if you're coming from Mirsky's.) Mirsky retaliated
by providing the URL and urging his readers to cut-and-paste or type it
directly, circumventing the bozo filter. Fraser stepped up this arms
race by changing his filter to disallow accesses that aren't from an
identifiable page, like when a user types in the URL directly. This
change means that you can't access his site from your bookmark list either,
but such is the price one must pay for "progress" in blocking undesirables!
American Mensa, the high-IQ society,
had a web-linking controversy a few years ago as a result of its section containing
links to member home pages. New York Mensan Cleo Odzer has
a home page which the National Mensa Webmaster refused to link to, on the
grounds that its content is "outside the bounds of what I consider to be in good taste"
and "We must put on a less controversial demeanor for the Internet." Read more
about this controversy here.
The issue was later resolved by Mensa deciding to require all linked pages to rate
themselves under a Web self-rating standard so that automated "cyber-censorship" software
can screen the "naughty" sites; if they're rated, even at the adult level, Mensa will
link to members' noncommercial pages. This, in turn, spawned a big political debate
within Mensa with anti-rating-system members not liking being required to add this rating.
An independent Mensa links page,
set up by a member, linked various Mensans' pages that have been removed from the official
site due to refusal to use ratings. But still later, Mensa moved their links pages to a
password-protected members-only section and lifted the rating requirement, now that their
links weren't exposed to the outside world.
Linking Rights -- an article
on whether somebody can legally bar you from linking to their site.
- This article discusses
a couple of legal disputes involving who owns hyperlinks.
Also see my Gender Grumbles & Giggles page
for some squabbles over "Babes on the Web" and similar sites.
This page was first created 02 Sep 1996, and was last modified 25 Nov 2013.
Copyright © 1995-2013 by Daniel R. Tobias. All rights reserved.