Deep Linking Comes Under Threat



A Danish Court hearing an appeal of a News Paper against a search engine site has objected to the deep linking to the articles in the news paper site.

The decision of the Danish Court is likely to generate a big debate on whether "Deep Linking" is a form of Copyright violation and if so what are the rights of the Copyright owner that are being infringed.

What will also be under debate is whether "Deep linking" is a fundamental nature of the web that cannot be altered without altering the basic existence of the Cyber society.

The Case in Brief:

Danish Newspaper Publishers Association (DNPA) Vs is a web based service which offers a "Key word based search facility". When an user enters a "Key word", he is presented relevant articles in various web news papers with hyperlinks. A copy of the article will be e-mailed on request for a fee.

According to the DNPA, Newsbooster repeatedly and systematically reproduces and publishes the Principals’ headlines and articles.... Newsbooster has a commercial interest in this business. As a consequence of Newsbooster’s use of deep-linking, Newsbooster’s users are taken directly to the Internet media’s newspaper articles and bypass the front pages of the said media. To a certain extent,  .. media’s advertising revenues are reduced.

The Court on consideration of the arguments presented has opined that the  Newsbooster’s use of a search engine and the distribution of electronic newsletters with deep links to articles in the Principals’ Internet newspapers conflicts with fair marketing practices and therefore contravenes section 1 of the Danish Marketing Practices Act.

An injunction has therefore been granted on the service and DNPA must now present the case to the Danish Maritime and Commercial Court within the next two weeks to confirm the original injunction, an action the association plans to pursue, according to its statement.

The type of service offered by Newsbooster is available in other countries and is definitely a consumer friendly service which harnesses the basic nature of Internet media which enables document to document hyper linking.

In the US, so far Deep Linking was considered acceptable following the ruling in the case of Ticket Master Against Microsoft in which's right to deep link to Ticket master's content was upheld. The objections of the Courts in US  were restricted to cases where the Copyrighted material was displayed by framing it in a manner that misrepresented the source of content. (Kelly Vs Arriba).

Even though many legal experts consider that the Newsbooster case may not have broad legal application outside Denmark, as the Court ruling  is on specific issues of the case, considers this as capable of being turned into a monster that can destroy the fundamental utility of the Web as a "Content Sharing Media".

In order to better understand the issues involved, it would help if we get deeper into the service offered by Newsbooster.

The Service:

According to the concept of the service described by on its website,

Quote: is the provider of a dynamic searchagent technology for business users. ..Its Personalized Business Intelligence Solution for enterprises who want to be updated about their Markets, Competitors, Customers and Products... provides up-to-the-minute business news, analysis and information from over 3000 freely accessible mainstream and specialist Web sites. For the price of .. 199 EUR per year, the user can access a fully personalized news service based on personal keywords."

"'s dynamic searchagent technology transforms the high value dynamic Web into an enterprise class information solution," says Anders Lautrup-Larsen, CEO and President. continually extracts valuable dynamic news and information headlines from over 3000 freely accessible online sources. It  indexes over 3000 high quality online sources, including all major news sources, subscription based specialized industry publications, announcements, research group reports, press releases, white papers, and company websites. Additional customized sources can be indexed on the fly in response to consumer requests. The professional solutions include the possibility to add internal comments to the news.

Using XML content profiles, filters dynamic content based on any number of variables including topic, keyword, demographic, or type of information to deliver the most relevant news intelligence without any unnecessary or unrelated information.



The professional panel of the Canadian Web Award have given Newsbooster the 2002 Web Award for providing a VERY GOOD CANADIAN FRIENDLY,
informative web site. The site has also been a winner of  the prestigious Golden Web Award 2002-2003

Newsbooster's Link Policy:

Newsbooster has declared the following link policy on their website:

Newsbooster believes that links are the heart of the World Wide Web. The ability to jump between sites, bookmark pages, and go directly to a specific page is part of the web's core technology.

However, some publishers are trying to prevent others from linking to otherwise freely accessible public areas of their sites. The legal battle over so-called "deep links" has just begun.

The Newsbooster Link Policy makes no judgment about the deep link policies of others. Instead, we affirm the importance of linking and explicitly permit deep links within our sites.

  • Newsbooster provides and encourage links to any public page, as long as the linked page does not appear within a frame.

  • Newsbooster respects any website business model, like Advertising, Micropayment, Subscription etc.

  • Newsbooster does not copy, or save cashed versions of the content in our internal databases

  • Newsbooster does not link to other sites within frames without expressed permission from those sites.

  • Newsbooster does not link directly to Pictures, PDF, MS Word Documents or any other format that does not appear as a website or is taken out of its context

  • Newsbooster respect the option to prevent search engines from deep linking to a specific page. Simply include the following meta-tag code in the HEAD part of the page:

  • Newsbooster will attribute external links to clearly indicate that they are on a separate web site.

  • Newsbooster will attribute external links to clearly indicate the sourcename (owner/name) of the website.

  • Newsbooster respect content ownership and will not knowingly plagiarize content from other sites. (Due to Open Content Licensing and contributors who freely distribute their original material to multiple sites, material may occasionally appear on more than one site.)

  • Other sites may reprint or copy this policy.

If there is no "Hyper link, there is no Virtual Asset"

There is a broad acceptability on the principle that "World Wide Web" exists because of the basic technology of "Hyper linking".

Remove "Hyper linking", then there is no world wide web. At best there will be the olden day "Ftp archives" from which you can down load files and read from your computer.

What "Hyper linking" does is to create a "Cyber Space" where one can browse through documents without down loading the information (except in cache memory) on to the computer. The cache is a technology requirement and files get stored and erased in cache automatically and not with conscious intervention of the user each time.

Any person who enters the Cyber space with an intention to place their documents there including the publishers of the DNPA group are doing so for their personal commercial benefit knowing fully the implications. They are also foregoing the technical tools that can make their content not viewable directly from a hyperlink by placing the files behind a firewall accessible only through the home page link.

Since hyper linking is the fundamental nature of the society in which the virtual property (Content) is situated, if  "Hyper linking" is to be barred, it  will automatically diminish the value of the virtual property to zero. Hence "hyper linking" per se is beyond the scope of dispute.

It is an Advertisement for which reverse Payment is Due

The objection to deep linking therefore stems from only the consideration of the "Bypassing of Advertisements" on the home page.

This argument is a weak anti consumer argument. Again the publisher has the option to prevent this as has been indicated by Newsbooster itself in its link policy. The procedure can be considered as simple enough for any web publisher to follow. An useful consumer service should not be prevented solely for the purpose of protecting an imaginary Advertising revenue of the publisher.

 It can also be rightly argued that the service is instead of depriving the publisher of revenue is actually providing him a free publicity that can boost his ad revenue from the linked page. Every news letter of News booster is an advertisement for the publication and there is a "Notional Payment of Consideration" that is getting passed from Newsbooster to the publication. While  link displays  from the search page is worth around US $ 10 per mille  (Average advertisement rates for text links), the news letter links should be valued at around US $ 200 per mille (Average advertisement cost for direct electronic mail to a value added opt in mail group).

Without the Newsbooster advertisement, it is possible that many readers would never have visited the publication site directly and hence the argument that there is a revenue loss in terms of advertisements to the publication by services such as Newsbooster is fundamentally flawed.

There is also a fundamental question that "Linking" is only placing a pointer. It only provides an address where the document is available. The title to which the link is provided is itself  only a "Mark of Identification". Unless the content is reproduced beyond a reasonable summary, hyper linking cannot be held as "Theft of Information". There is no erosion in the value of the "Copyright Subject" as a result of the linking. Also the distinction between "linking" and "deep linking" itself is artificial since each document on the web is an independent document with a distinct URL. Whether you follow links to reach a document or type the URL directly or use book marks is a matter of personal choice. It is like taking a direct ticket from Delhi to New York vs taking series of tickets from New Delhi to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to London and London to New York.

Hence unless a Court can also say that "No Reader of a News Paper Should be allowed to read the inside pages without seeing the front page" and  "No TV Viewer should surf the channels when an ad break is on during a TV programme", it cannot also say that "Deep Linking" bypassing the home page is an infringement of copyright. The infringement issue only comes when in the process of deep linking (or hyper linking) the authorship of the underlying material is deliberately misrepresented for pecuniary gain.

The case is an important landmark and we need to follow the developments keenly. Newsbooster has taken the right decision to contest the injunction and all freedom loving Netizens who value the existence of the Cyber Space and its fundamental freedom of hyper linking should support its cause.


 July 10,  2002

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