Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Many commercial websites still have hyperlink policies

While trying to catch up NBC's “Days of our Lives” today since I was gone, I went to “” and was surprised to see a statement after today’s plot summary, “Please be aware we have a link-only policy”.  I wasn’t even sure what that means.  Presumably that means you can’t copy their summaries, you can only link to them – and that would be reasonable as the site (“Dustin’s” former site) uses the detailed daily summaries to attract advertising income. 
However, the site would not be able to tell someone they can’t claim “fair use” – if it really was “fair”.  Possibly it could be fought in court – expensive.  For example, other’s (myself included) will sometimes discuss individual characters in this or other soaps as they would in discussing any TV series or movie.  For example, a reviewer might write is own discussion of Will and Sonny in light of the gay marriage issue, or might discuss the interesting legal and ethical problems subsumed by the plot thread where Will writes about his own family and gets paid for it, or why EJ didn’t want a funeral when he was gone – because that really brings up some interesting issues that can apply to a lot of people.  But the words and analysis have to be “yours” (or “mine”).  (The “soaps” site is in a sense a “derivative work”, but that’s another matter.)
I checked around, and found some commercial sites do have “linking policies”.  Jack Daniels, for example.  But no company, in today’s legal environment, can stop some other party from linking to them.  (It can stop reproduction of its trademark dress designs, for instance.) Back about a dozen or more years ago, there were some battles over “deep links” which are legally the same thing as bibliographic footnotes in a term paper.  Some companies in the past worried they would lose advertising revenue to deep links, but in practice that is very much a red herring.
A site called “Seq legal” has a presentation on the issue, here. It offers a good explanation as to why links matter.

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