Re: LAW: Legality of deep linking to Web sites

From: John Marlow (
Date: Thu Jan 18 2001 - 23:58:43 MST

Hi. It *seems* to be an undecided matter at this time--subject to the
latest court decisions, of course. Found this in a book of mine
(forgive any typos):

"Some website owners object to the use of deep links. They want all
the people who use their website to go first to the home page,
usually because advertising is posted there. The use of deep links
can cost such a website advertising revenue. In the first case of its
kind, Ticketmaster Online sued Microsoft because it linked from its
Sidewalk city guides to pages deep within Ticketmaster's website. The
case was settled, and as a result there have been no court rulings to
date on whether deep linking constitutes copyright infringement or
violates other intellectual property laws, such as trademark laws.

"Many copyright experts believe that deep linking is not copyright
infringement--after all, the author of a novel can't prevent readers
from reading the end first if they so desire, so why should a website
owner have the right to determine in what order a user can access a
website? Nevertheless, it's prudent to be careful before deep linking
to advertising-rich commercial sites. Many such sites have linking
policies posted. Some well-known websites such as welcome
deep links. If a comemrcial website has no posting [sic] linking
policy or says that deep links are not allowed, it's wise to ask for
permission before deep linking. Otherwiseyou could wind up getting a
"cease and desist" letter from a lawyer."

This from The Copyright Handbook, by Stephen Fishman (atty who also
writes and edits ref works for attys), Nolo Press, v5 (February
2000). If you really want to get into it, you'll need to hit a law
library and follow current caselaw.

Whether that cease & desist letter will carry any weight is another
matter--it may if the courts come down on the no-links side at a
later date. You might respond to them that your understanding based
on current law is that it's legal--notify you with statute/caselaw
cites if this changes (putting the burden to follow changing law on
them.) this will not make you any friends there, of course.

I would certainly think that a deep link which did not merely take
the viewer to the linked site, but did so while keeping him within
the linker's frame containing advertising--would be far more likely
to be frowned upon by a court than a straight deep link w/no frame--
particularly if the linked site contains advertising which may be
rendered nonvisible, bypassed, or reduced in size as a result.

At the moment, it *appears* to be safe to deep link. As always, the
law blunders along behind the tech.

Hope this is helpful.
Thanks for providing this forum--and so much more.

john marlow


On 18 Jan 2001, at 12:31, Max More wrote:

> Does anyone know what the law says about "deep linking". Say you write some > comments on an article appearing on a magazine's Web page, and you link > directly to the article. (The article appears in a new browser, exactly as > it would appear if the viewer had gone there directly.) > > What if the magazine sent you a Cease and Desist letter, and told you that > it did not permitting linking to its content (which is freely open to the > public), only to its main page? > > This sounds ridiculous to me. The magazine would be turning away freely > given traffic that it would otherwise not receive. What I'm really > interested in is not so much the silliness of such a policy, but whether an > online magazine can legally enforce such a claim. I would think the law > does *not* support this, but sometimes "the law is an ass", so I'm asking > the many-brained List if it knows the law in this area. > > I can't imagine telling someone, "No, no, I don't permit you to link to The > Extropian Principles. You may only link to my home page." > > Thanks, > > Max > -------------------- > > Max More, > or > > President, Extropy Institute. > Senior Content Architect, ManyWorlds Inc.: >

John Marlow

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