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section heading icon     links, frames and tags

This page looks at disputes about framing, 'deep linking', shallow linking and metatags.

It covers -

  • introduction
  • frames
  • links
  • tags

In 2006 Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst sued Gawker, among other sites, for linking to a adult video in which he appeared. Gawker editor Jessica Coen sneered

Honestly, though, we don't know why you're so mad at us. The situation is really rather simple. Someone sent us a link to a video of your penis, we went into shock, and we shared it with the world for about two hours. Then we wept, found God, took a hot bath, and removed the video from our site.

Mr Durst eventually dropped the suit

subsection heading icon   frames

In contrast to dispute about domain names there has been less disagreement about restrictions on unauthorised framing, ie presenting content from a separate site in a way that obscures the authorship/ownership of that content or that removes links to other parts of the original site.

We'll be discussing principles and major cases in the future.

subsection heading icon   deep and shallow links

In his 1997 Links & Law: Axioms of Web Architecture Tim Berners-Lee identified fundamental principles about links on which the web is based, commenting that lawyers, users and technology and content providers must agree to respect the principles. He notes that

On the web, to make reference without making a link is possible but ineffective - like speaking but with a paper bag over your head

Although there's been broad agreement about the principles, some site operators (and courts) have required permission for any linking to one site from another - both shallow linking (ie a pointer to the index/home page of a site) and deep linking (ie linking directly to a subsidiary page). Observers have asked if site operators don't use readily available software to prevent deep linking are they giving the world an implied license to deep link? Is deep linking permissible regardless of the operator's conduct and desires?

We'll be exploring those questions shortly, with an identification of principles, practices, major litigation and commentary.

In the interim Stefan Bechtold's Link Controversy Page (LCP) is a rich resource if you are interested in the debate about deep linking, shallow linking or framing.  

Dan Burk's 1998 paper Proprietary Rights in Hypertext Linkages and the 1997 paper by Edward Cavazos & Coe Miles about Copyright on the WWW: Linking & Liability precede several important recent court cases but provide succinct introductions to linking and framing issues. Mark Sableman's 2001 paper Link Law Revisited: Internet Linking Law At Five Years is a succinct US overview.

Burk has subsequently commented - in discussing the Ticketmaster, Futuredontics, Shetland Times and Utah Lighthouse Ministries litigation - that "despite the fairly clear logic against a finding of copyright liability, some courts have been sympathetic" to such claims.

He suggests that disagreement about the activity of data aggregators - a notable example is the eBay v. Bidder's Edge case, in which the site operator invoked the 'trespass to chattels' theory in claiming unauthorised access to its data - is likely to be of major concern in future.

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen's March 2001 Alertbox proclaimed that "Deep Linking is Good Linking":

links that go directly to a site's interior pages enhance usability because, unlike generic links, they specifically relate to users' goals. Websites should encourage deep linking

since on etail sites problems "in getting from the homepage to the correct product page accounted for 27% of failures".

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version of July 2006
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