Web Legalities: Linking
A link is the address of a web page which is maintained on a page which allows you
to jump to the new web page. One of the great things about HTML and the world wide
web is this ability to link sites together. This results in the internet truly
becoming a web, and the benefits to the surfer are tremendous.
It is normal for virtually every site on the web to maintain a list of links to
"favorite", "featured" or "special" places to visit. This is almost never done with
permission, nor does it need to be.
Remember that we are discussing linking to pages on other web sites, not graphics,
zip files, sound files or anything else. Only HTML-style pages are acceptable for
cross-linking. Linking to other types of media files is called bandwidth stealing and
is highly unethical. Also remember, do not link to other people's CGI routines
There is some concern over the acceptableness of this linking behavior. Some
commercial sites are not happy with linking because it bypasses their "home page" or
sidesteps their advertising. There is even some discussion that linking is a trademark
infringement or violates some other sacred rights.
This is all silly talk by people and organizations who completely misunderstand
the nature of the world wide web. The best practice of everyone creating a site is to
complete ignore this asinine discussion totally and to link vigorously and constantly.
In my opinion the best way to think of linking is to associate it with the "fair
use" laws. These are the laws which allow people to include short quotes from
published and copyrighted works in their own materials. This is not illegal or
unethical - in fact it is absolutely necessary. Imagine how difficult it would be for
a college student to write a term paper if he could not quote authors, or how
impossible it would be for a critic to do his job if he could not include a few lines
from the work he was writing about.
Fair use is something that comes under attack by dimwits sometimes. It is essential
that we, the people, constantly use the fair use laws, as if they become unused then
they will become illegal. We must defend our rights to quote and "borrow" snippets
from other sources.
Note, however, you should follow some guidelines when linking.
• Keep your links simple. Fair use allows small
quotes, and as long as you keep things short you should be fine. If you start
including complex graphics or long passages of text then you are putting yourself at
risk as well as possibly plagiarizing.
• Get permission where possible or feasible. This can
work to your advantage, as you can do a "link exchange" which has many uses (more
links to your site means a higher popularity by search engines).
• Include a section of your own which explains to
your visitors that you have no control over external links You think they might be of
interest, but you don't have any responsibility for their content.