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polo_step
August 5th, 2005, 09:21 AM
A year or two back, I was reading an article about the linking of sites and some US federal cases that had established the absolute right for any website to provide a link to any other site or content on it, though one could not legally put the hotlinked material on his site - only to provide a bare link to it.

That is to say, Bob providing a referential link on his page to copyrighted material (let's say a poem) on its proprietary site was established as always OK, but doing a hotlink and having the poem show up on Bob's page was not.

That analogy was that it can't be illegal to give someone directions to a museum, but it is to take their artwork.

Does anyone know the details of this doctrine can be found online, or even the case names?

The reason I ask is that there's a rich alcoholic bully with a commercial discussion site who seems to spend his time googling the net trying to find any mention of him or his site, and when he finds anyone linking to his site, usually from someone who he has banned or otherwise antagonized complaining of his behavior, he has his lawyers start threatening the host page with violation of copyright, etc., etc. He takes great pleasure in making enemies and then trying to throw lawyers at any third party who inadvertently has reference to him or links to his site on theirs. The guy's psycho.

One particular "competing" discussion site is constantly being harassed because users in discussions there make mention of his antics and frequently link to examples of some of his more outrageous behavior on his site. He maintains - quite erroneously, I believe - that these links are actionable violations of copyright.

My understanding is this is 100% legal, but I can no longer find the information and case law concerning it.

Any help would be appreciated.

endy
August 5th, 2005, 10:24 AM
Hmmm, interesting subject. I found a page that may help you:

http://www.bitlaw.com/internet/webpage.html#linking

A quote from following the extended discussion of linking liability (http://www.bitlaw.com/internet/linking.html) link:


When an HREF link is followed by an end user, the user's browser is told to go to a new source for information. In such HREF links, the browser redraws the user's screen from scratch, based upon the information found at the new, linked-to location. In effect, the HREF link merely provides the browser with the Internet address for a new page. Providing this address to an end users web browser should be no more an infringement than providing that web address in written form (as would appear in a newspaper article). The provision of this type of information is similar to providing a library user with the Library of Congress (Dewey Decimal ?) location for a book already in the library. The address is itself is pure information, and is not protected by copyright (see the BitLaw discussion on ideas for more information) or by any other intellectual property regime.

Not exactly straight from the lawyer's mouth but I hope this gets you on the right track :)

Lord Illidan
August 5th, 2005, 10:55 AM
I agree, Provided that the links are just simple urls, not hotlinking, they are of no offence, and are certainly not a violation of copyright. Hotlinking can be viewed as illegal, as you are not explicitly stating from where the image or text is coming from, but a link like a url is not illegal, as you are stating that the web page in question is hosted on another site.
The picture/museum analogy stated above is a perfect example.

polo_step
August 5th, 2005, 11:20 AM
Hmmm, interesting subject. I found a page that may help you:
I never did get the case law, which I am primarily after, but it does indeed support the position as it is described.

In doing some googling vainly trying to find what I'm after, I am seeing more examples of well-funded entities threatening sites for pure linking to their sites anyway -- never mind that it's the whole PURPOSE of the WWW in the first place!

Apparently it's just bullying by lawyers without any legal basis.

If it had any, search engines would explicitly be illegal. Think about it.

The position of these people seems to be that one may only link to the main/index page. To link to "www.foxnews.com" is OK, but to link to "www.foxnews.com/articles/funny_dog_news/1234.htm" is given the very sinster-sounding term "deep linking" and therefore is somehow tortuously a violation of copyright and otherwise illegal. So far, I can find no legal support for this position, nor can I find case law specifically against it.

The somewhat stretched premise is that it allows anybody to get direct access to a specific page without going through terms-of-use rigmarole (and probably more importantly, does not expose the deep linker to splash advertising, tracking, cookies and profitable whatnot he would get if accessing the information through the main home page).

It would appear to me that the complaintant is under some obligation to secure his site from such deep-link access if he does not wish it, as has the NYT and many other online news media. It is not illegal simply because he doesn't like deep linking and is too cheap to have his website reengineered to prevent it.

But still -- is there case law to this effect? I can't find it.

polo_step
August 5th, 2005, 11:24 AM
a link like a url is not illegal, as you are stating that the web page in question is hosted on another site.
If you can show me case law to that effect, I'd be grateful.

What we think doesn't matter unless we're federal judges trying related cases. ;-)

Lord Illidan
August 5th, 2005, 11:39 AM
You are right, it is what I think..
But in the case of the museum/picture/address analogy, then telephone directories are also illegal.
I know about the problems of hotlinking as a waste of bandwith, but I am not sure that there are any laws in place against hotlinking or linking in general.

Because if linking is illegal, then the whole web is illegal, as the internet is a collection of webstes which link to eachother, like a spider's web.

The same applies to search engines, portals etc.

polo_step
August 5th, 2005, 12:21 PM
You are right, it is what I think..
OK, that's good, but I'm trying to find what a judge thinks and has written in a finding accessible online.

Heck, I'll even settle for dicta. :-|

I can't find anything since about 2003 and these were very unsatisfactory rulings in that they did not address the core issues, but rather were decided on technicalities specific to the cases.

Later: There has apparently never been a case that went to a judgement on this! It's still all he-says-she-says. The relevant US cases have been privately settled.

Here: Check out this deep link. (http://www.netlitigation.com/netlitigation/linking.htm#about1) It's the best one I've seen on US cases, and none have any more information than this.

heimo
August 5th, 2005, 12:35 PM
I don't know (exactly) what you're looking for, but I'd go to some other discussion forum, or http://www.eff.org/

Does this give any leads?
http://www.venables.co.uk/n0205uscaselaw.htm

I better :-# IANAL.

polo_step
August 5th, 2005, 01:34 PM
Does this give any leads?
I've read all these and these are the ones I've referred to, above.

The issue isn't really clear in these cases as other factors are involved. Straight referential linking is not at issue in the findings, though that has been mistakenly reported to be the case, which caused my initial confusion (see first post - the article I read was wrong, as were many on the subject at the time of the ruling). Some sites, including the EFF's linking FAQ, (http://www.chillingeffects.org/linking/faq.cgi) say that Ticketmaster v. Tickets.Com established that deep linking was not a violation of copyright in the US, other legal sites say that it was ambiguous in establishing the legality of the practice. Apparently no more recent judgment has clarified the point.

The "opposition" seems to take the point that linking if not precisely a violation of copyright, can still be damaging, thus a tort and thus actionable.

So...as of right now, there appears to be no absolute right in the US to referential "deep linking" without fear of litigation.

As a sidenote, my inability to come up with straight HTML code to prevent deep links from displaying outside of the home frameset (essentially the same complaint people have made against deep linking) has kept me from doing an informational site for years. At least I realize this is my responsibility as the owner of the site.

macgyver2
August 5th, 2005, 01:57 PM
A year or two back, I was reading an article about the linking of sites and some US federal cases that had established the absolute right for any website to provide a link to any other site or content on it...

My understanding is this is 100% legal, but I can no longer find the information and case law concerning it.

I can't find anything solid about the linking to copyrighted material thing, but there is an instance where it's not legal for a website to link to another website regardless of the content on it...and that's if the content of the "another website" is...DeCSS.

endy
August 5th, 2005, 02:25 PM
The deep linking page on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_linking) links to a site called Links & Law (http://www.linksandlaw.com/):


Information about legal aspects of search engines, hyperlinks (surface and deep links), inline links and frames,

including case law summary, links to relevant court rulings worldwide and to relevant articles (in English and German) in the area of competition and intellectual property law (copyright, trademark and patent law).

The website also deals with the liability for linking to illegal material and linking policies that try to restrict linking and framing.

Wikipedia to the rescue :D

NoTiG
August 5th, 2005, 02:34 PM
Is this not proof that ubuntu can have an automate scrip, or even a link to an automate script on a desktop legally ? To install proprietary codecs.

polo_step
August 6th, 2005, 12:06 AM
The deep linking page on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_linking) links to a site called Links & Law (http://www.linksandlaw.com/):

Wikipedia to the rescue :D
I checked it out a while back. That's a German site and doesn't have anything really decisive about US law.

As far as my research goes, Ticketmaster v. Tickets.Com is about the closest case and it's ambiguous.

The EFF page to which I linked (above) is probably the most succinct.

[The EFF is a great resource. It was started by some guys I knew in the old days when the net was a free place. They believed they could keep it that way.]