Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

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January 16, 2007

Federal Judge Outlaws Hyperlinking

by Doug Mataconis

According to one U.S. District Court Judge in Texas, it’s against the law to hyperlink to copyrighted material if the copyright holder objects:

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that it is unlawful to provide a hyperlink to a Webcast if the copyright owner objects to it.

U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay in the northern district of Texas granted a preliminary injunction against Robert Davis, who operated Supercrosslive.com and had been providing direct links to the live audiocasts of motorcycle racing events.

Lindsay ruled last week that “the link Davis provides on his Web site is not a ‘fair use’ of copyright material” and ordered him to cease linking directly to streaming audio files.

The audio Webcasts are copyrighted by SFX Motor Sports, a Texas company that is one of the largest producers of “Supercross” motorcycle racing events. SFX sued Davis in February, noting that fans who go to its own Web site will see the names and logos of sponsors including wireless company Amp’d Mobile. (Anyone who clicked on the link from Davis’ site, however, would not see the logos of companies that paid to be sponsors.)

Think for a second about what this means. You’re not posting copyright material yourself, you’re not even quoting from it. All you’re doing is linking to it. And yet, according to Judge Lindsey, this is a copyright violation. Of course, if he’s right, then the entire World Wide Web is nothing more than one big copyright violation, as John Dvorak points out:

A link is a link. Banning deep linking is a step towards banning all linking, and what does that do for the Google business model? Where are the Google attorneys helping out in this case? Are they helping out on the appeal? If not, then why not?

How do we even use the Internet if deep linking is illegal for some reason? We don’t, that’s how. Goodbye, Amazon. Hey Jeff, did you help out on this case?

Cases like this point out the problems I have with the entire concept of intellectual property law. How am I violating your rights if I post a link on my website to something you posted on yours ?

It’s not as if I took your content and appropriated it as my own. Heck, I haven’t even altered your content to make it appear original. Moreover, if you don’t want me deeplinking to your site, the you can take steps to make sure that won’t happen, but not doing so, you are implicitly saying it’s acceptable.

Of course, as the New York Times has discovered, hiding content behind a firewall seldom leads to success.

H/T: QandO

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4 Comments

  1. Name one blogger that won’t be put out of business by this decision if it is upheld by the Supreme Court.

    Comment by Kevin — January 16, 2007 @ 10:24 pm
  2. this same issue has been up, and dismissed on appeal several times already; and almost certainly will be again.

    Comment by Chris Byrne — January 17, 2007 @ 9:34 am
  3. This might pass muster on appeal. “unlawful to provide a hyperlink to a Webcast if the copyright owner objects to it.” That phrase if the copyrighter objects is key, and since it narrows the definition of what is unlawful it might pass muster.

    That said, why did “SFX Motor Sports” feel the need to sue? Why not just block deep linking to their video feeds?

    - Jordan

    Comment by JoJo — January 17, 2007 @ 12:16 pm
  4. Amazing. This is like throwing $20 bills on the street and charging anyone who picks one up with theft.
    If you want your intellectual property kept private then don’t put it out someplace public. Ya know, like the internet.

    Comment by tkc — January 17, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

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