dan.tobias.name | Controversies | Cyberspace | Link It

Dan's Political and Controversial Site:

Current Controversies, Crises, & Censorship in Cyberspace

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, article, amended 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.

  • BusinessWeek has 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 in these blogs and this news article.

  • Inventor-Link has terms of use posted on its site that 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 this one, 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 demanding 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!

  • This 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) in the JavaScript language to embed on his pages, disallowing access to the site when following links from "bad" sites like Mirsky's. (Of course, if you're using a browser that doesn't support JavaScript, like Netscape prior 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 © 1995-2018 by Daniel R. Tobias. All rights reserved.