Deep linking banned
May 1, 2002 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Deep linking banned by "ultimately... this is our content and we should have some control about where and in what way it is used. We'll see what happens in the law and in the courts to decide how to proceed." Has the law already clarified this issue, or does the newspaper still have room to make a case? (via The Morning News)
posted by junkbox (26 comments total)
too bad is too dumb to realize that it would take just a couple lines of code to automatically redirect anybody coming from an outside site, to their front page. this could be added to either a server-side script, or their .htaccess file.

are people so litigous these days that it's easier to go to court than to write a couple of lines of code??
posted by LuxFX at 11:25 AM on May 1, 2002

A deep link to an article about deep linking at GigaLaw.

Although at least one case failed to find this practice illegal, it remains an unclear area of Internet law.
posted by euphorb at 11:28 AM on May 1, 2002

Too bad, because this story about the WTC collapse is pretty good.
posted by johnnydark at 11:28 AM on May 1, 2002

According to Jakob, Deep Linking is Good Linking
posted by junkbox at 11:40 AM on May 1, 2002

This wouldnt be terribly hard to code your way into stopping.

eg, pseudo code:
if (!referer.equals("")) {

Throw that on every page that isn't your front door, pow, no deep linking, no need for lawyers.
posted by malphigian at 11:45 AM on May 1, 2002

Do you have to read the paper version of the Dallas Morning News front to back as well?
posted by electro at 11:46 AM on May 1, 2002

I think it's reverse psychology. I've never wanted to link to anything at ever before but now I suddenly have the overwhelming urge to.
posted by frenetic at 11:48 AM on May 1, 2002

That's Texas. They are being lenient and not asking for Death Penalty. assholes is the technical term, I believe.
posted by Postroad at 11:55 AM on May 1, 2002

maybe someone should mail that code to the dallas news?
posted by Hackworth at 12:13 PM on May 1, 2002

maybe someone should mail that code to the dallas news?

Can someone throw in a clue-by-four as well? Sounds like they need a good whacking with one.

If their argument hinges solely on the fact that they are losing advertising revenue by people not viewing the 3-4 ads that would have lead to the article from the main page, the argument is identical to a TV channel saying that fast forwarding commercials is stealing their content.

By the way, I just received my first request to remove a link at MetaFilter. Remember the woman that had that site with little premature baby dolls? She asked that all links to her site be removed, which I found odd, since I remember the discussion here wavered between confusion and understanding, and probably got her a lot of publicity (and sales).
posted by mathowie at 12:19 PM on May 1, 2002

I just received my first request to remove a link at MetaFilter...

What is your policy on that? Isn't it a little late anyway?
posted by eas98 at 12:27 PM on May 1, 2002

Wired News' take on the issue seems to be fairly evident, seeing as they linked to the specific article as well... :)
posted by gohlkus at 12:58 PM on May 1, 2002

im not that old, but as i grow older i try to avoid anything that would make me look like a senile old geezer-- and whining about someone telling people to read an article in your newspaper seems ridiculous to me.

would he have the nerve to tell his print readers that they couldnt clip a cartoon from the funny pages to put in their office cube? in his world, he'd prefer it if they stapled the entire paper to their wall.
posted by tsarfan at 1:00 PM on May 1, 2002

1.Buy a copy of a paper called The Dallas News.
posted by holloway at 1:06 PM on May 1, 2002

I wouldn't say pointing to a story on a news site is 'deep linking', it's more like 'linking'. They obviously haven't used the Web in a while otherwise they might realise that's how it works.

Some handy hints for any DallasNews people who've somehow managed to follow enough 'deep links' to read all this - that funny rolling thing with the buttons isn't a foot pedal, and your coffee shouldn't be sitting on the CD-ROM tray.
posted by malevolent at 1:15 PM on May 1, 2002

Remember the woman that had that site with little premature baby dolls?
i sent her a reply to the same demand whch basically said if you don't want to be linked, get off the web. most recently, i had a demand from the combination CEO/IT Director/Legal Dept/Entire Workforce Of One at to remove a link which contained some quoted text and an image taken from the site. since the demand letter was actually funnier than the text and image, i substituted the letter in its place. never had another peep out of them (him).
posted by quonsar at 1:15 PM on May 1, 2002

DallasNews may not implement a hardcoded denial since a visitor's browser is solely responsible for reporting a referrer. And since many browsers report referrers with extemely limited success, they would be blocking an inordinate number of "legitimate" requests.

Of course, the people at Dallas News are clearly retarded, so I wouldn't be surprised if they implemented a hardcoded denial script.
posted by Danelope at 1:19 PM on May 1, 2002

If Belo wins this fight, it's much bigger than just the Dallas paper. Belo owns 18 television stations (six in the top 17 markets) reaching 14 percent of U. S. television households; owns or operates six cable news channels; and manages two television stations through local marketing agreements. Belo's Newspaper Group comprises four daily newspapers with a combined circulation that exceeds 800,000 daily and more than 1.2 million on Sunday.

Belo raised almost 8 million dollars and donated a mansion to the Dallas Bar what are the odds that it will be a "fair" trial, anywhere in Texas?

Then again, those of us in and around Dallas have always known that Belo was evil...but it's nice to know the message is finally getting out of our little 'burb.
posted by dejah420 at 1:24 PM on May 1, 2002

In school, we're taught to provide explicit details about the works we cite in our research. For example, quoting from Dickens for a paper on Victorian lit, I would be expected to give the title, edition, publisher, page # etc. that leads directly to that specific passage in the book. But by Dallas Morning News' logic, I should rather only cite the book in general, and hope that the reader of my paper finds my reference somehow on their own. What a crock of shit.
posted by michaelbrown at 1:26 PM on May 1, 2002

Alternately, you could just link to something like:*

Sure, you'll be automatically be redirected to Dallas News' site, but you're legally (assuming this case ever has serious legal consequence) only linking to
posted by Danelope at 1:35 PM on May 1, 2002

If referer is a problem (not something I'd heard before, what browsers mangle the referer reporting?), there are other options. Or, they could just let users with a missing referer (this would catch people coming for a bookmark as well) in.

Or, they could just as easily manage incoming users with a session created on the homepage, and redirect those who don't have it back home.

In any case, my point was, I'm pretty sure there are code solutions to this "problem". But I guess you're right, if they are so ignorant they dont understand linking is part of the web, they probably don't have the code mojo to come up with a solution -- so lawyers it is.
posted by malphigian at 1:39 PM on May 1, 2002

malphigian: Referrers don't get mangled so much as they do get dropped. I've done some extensive experimenting with referrers, and accurate reporting seems to vary depending on how you got to the link. If you type the URL into the location bar or the popup "Open page..." dialog, referrers are usually not reported, though there are random exceptions. If you click one of your bookmarks/personal toolbar links, they're usually not reported (with, again, some exceptions.) Clicking a link from one site to another usually will report a referrer, though there are variations as to whether the link is opened in a new window/tab. No browser seems to get it right all the time, so the results are tenuous at best.

Belo's primary arguments are that a) "deep" linking violates their copyrights, and b) "deep" linking allows readers to bypass their front page and avoid seeing their advertising.

a) How does pointing to an article on their site violate their copyright in any way?

b) Correct me if I'm wrong, but has any human in the history of mankind been morally or legally obligated to view ads simply because someone somewhere has paid for that ad to exist? There are billions of ads running around the world today in a variety of media and, if this were true, every person would be required to look at all of them.
posted by Danelope at 1:54 PM on May 1, 2002

One of the big questions here is whether or not the characters embedded within any given URL can be legally considered as the property of Dallas News because they happen to own the domain and they set up the directory hierarchy and pages with which the links are directed. If we are to look at any anchor tag from a fair use standpoint, if anyone linking to a particular news site adds a lengthy TITLE attribute to an anchor tag, would that essentially be transforming a link into one's own particular spin on the substance? When we factor in the actual HTML code itself, which can be acceptably used by used by anyone, what we have, ownership-wise, is:

1/3 Dallas News link (owned by Dallas News)
1/3 words typed in by author to link to site in addtion to any TITLE attribute (owned by author)
1/3 HTML anchor tag (publicly disseminated, owned by no one)

Given the relative brevity of any particular anchor tag (in comparison to a book review that excerpts a book passage), it would seem to me that, even if Dallas News prevailed in court, this would constitute fair use.
posted by ed at 2:26 PM on May 1, 2002

DallasNews may not implement a hardcoded denial since a visitor's browser is solely responsible for reporting a referrer. And since many browsers report referrers with extemely limited success, they would be blocking an inordinate number of "legitimate" requests.

You can simply block any request whose referrer begins with "http://" and does not contain the appropriate domain. This still allows bookmarks and it will let people who use firewalls that block referrers get through, but since the vast majority of such people don't, nobody will link to you.

A far, far better solution, if they're worried about losing ad revenue, is to simply display ads on the pages if the visitor is coming from an external site.
posted by kindall at 4:18 PM on May 1, 2002

I find this case particularly troubling. Barking Dogs is not simply repacking links to the DMN content. You could argue that such repacking is a derivative work, which would be protected by copyright.

Instead, Barking Dogs is an advocacy web site, presenting news and information and opinion. They do a pretty good job of documenting their stories. In some cases I saw them using--and linking to--statistics directly from the City of Dallas. Their links into the DMN web site seem to be within the context of their commentary, which ought to fall smack dab under fair use rights. (I mean what fair use really means, not this "oh I can copy it if it's not for profit" crap commonly found on the net.)

On the other hand, Barking Dogs does have a rudely annoying Javascript crawl in the message bar, a practice which deserves an eternity in the deepest reaches of hell.
posted by chipr at 6:32 PM on May 1, 2002

God, this is total bollocks! You've got to wonder about a newspaper that wants people to link to the front page so they get money from ads, rather than going straight to the information. Newspapers are here to give you the news, and how they get their money should not have any bearing on how and where you read the daily events. If they need money, they should have a carwash or a bakesale.
posted by animoller at 10:06 AM on May 2, 2002

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