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|Are links themselves subject to copyright?|
Link removal request from site claiming they must give permission for link
I'm an individual who has designed a page listing links (organized by state) to animal shelters. The purpose is to try to encourage people to adopt animals that would otherwise be killed (instead of purchasing them). I have logos displayed for some of the shelters (all done with emailed permission from each particular shelter).
This page was up for years, and then down when my ISP went under this past year and lost all data. I recently got my own domain, put the page back up, and emailed all the representative shelters to let them know my new URL, in case they were interested or wished to add their logo if it didn't appear.
I got one angry email from a rescue site that claimed (to paraphrase) 1) They refuse to allow links to their site on sites getting revenue from ads [I have adsense ads on my page]; 2) They are not affiliated with my page [which I never claimed]; and 3) They never gave me permission to link to them, and if I don't remove the link to their site in four days I will be contacted by their legal council.
I do have their logo displayed - someone at their site gave me permission (by email) quite a few years ago, but sadly the hard-drive where I had that information stored at the time got corrupted and the data are unretrievable. I don't have a problem removing their logo if they no longer want it there, or even with removing their contact information (such as email address, which appears on their website). My beef is with their claim that my simply *linking* to their site is illegal if they don't give permission.
I have no money to hire a lawyer to answer this question for me (and I certainly don't have any money to fend off a lawsuit!) - is there any chance anyone here is familiar with whether it is illegal to link to someone's site if they ask you not to? They could hardly claim that I'm stealing customers from them with my ads, as I block/remove all Google ads from breeders or pet stores that sell pets.
Thanks in advance for any advice
It's not worth the fight to try to educate them or their lawyer (if they are anal enough to hire one). I'd remove the logo and link and let them suffer the loss of traffic that you might have been sending them. If you can find a nearby "competitor" to them, I would definitely link to them and even promote them more than other links. :)
Do save the e-mail for future reference, should they (or someone else there) decide to contact you again for a link. (At that point you can decide whether or not to be charitable and put a link back.)
I will probably take your advice, and I would love the idea of not giving them traffic... except that it is the animals who will suffer if people don't adopt them. Those animals at this (no-kill) shelter will be fine, but the shelter will not be able to rescue others who will, in turn, be killed. It also really burns me up to do anything that appears to comply with the bullying tactics involved. That's partly why I wanted to know the specifics of legality, if anyone else knew; I'd love to be able to send a reply email saying "It isn't illegal to link to anyone's site, even if they don't want the link" and then to tell them I'm removing it anyway so that they don't get any business from MY site. They might still think I'm complying out of fear, but *I'd* feel better. :)
Btw, whomever it was that sent me the email from that shelter didn't even sign it. No name whatsoever. Pretty courageous, eh?
Maybe you could explain to them that the reason you have adsense on the page is to pay the domain bill. Maybe you could even let them know exactly how much you make, because I'll bet the real root of their objection to your link is that they think you are making a lot of money off adsense.
There is no way that linking to a site can be prevented because of copyright issues. Otherwise, every time someone did a search on Google, copyrights would be violated en masse. And has Google ever asked anyone their permission to include them in their results? No. These folks should be gently reminded that Google itself makes money off its search results because of its ads, and that is the only way that anyone can find them outside of a direct link.
I seriously doubt they are going to take you to court. To be sure, you could always cruise around copyright.gov and see if you can find anything about urls being copyrightable. It seems ridiculous to me, but like I said, I think their real issue is the fact that you are profiting off what they see as their work with animals. Most of these orgs operate real close to the bone, as you know. I think more communication would resolve this with them.
Also, I think you should not remove the link. That would be spiteful.
[edited by: HRoth at 11:03 pm (utc) on Jan. 9, 2008]
>Btw, whomever it was that sent me the email from that shelter didn't even sign it.
Perhaps you could forward the email on to the Manager of the Shelter, or better still the Chairman of the Charity involved, and ask confirmation that this is indeed a genuine request.
What planet are they on?
>>They refuse to allow links to their site on sites getting revenue from ads... contact information
I presume they are therefore not in the phonebook. At least in the United States, every phone book I have ever seen sells ads, both on the cover, on the inside and, of course, in the Yellow Pages. Of course, they have an unlisted number because it would be unseemly to appear in a directory with advertising (and remember, many phone books are not published by the phone company, but are solely independent ventures published for the purpose of selling ads).
I assume they do not allow the local television and radio stations to tell people that there's no need to go out and pay for a dog when they could get one for free at the shelter because, Oh My God!, those nefarious stations sell ads! I shudder to think of the shame brought upon the shelter by getting mentioned on a commercial station.
Of course, and this should be obvious, they do not allow the local newspaper to show pictures of poor little creatures needing homes because that evil paper probably -- OH MY GOD! -- publishes ads! Of course, the shelter itself would NEVER actually demean itself by BUYING an ad from one of these evil publishers.
Meanwhile, I'm sure that Lindsay Lohan doesn't allow links from blogs that talk about her arrest and Microsoft doesn't allow links from forums that abbreviate their name M$.
Using their logo without permission is probably a service mark violation (a service mark is the same as a trademark, but for entities that offer services).
Ergophobe, you made my evening - I laughed out loud at your post. You have some great points. :)
Thanks, everyone, for your help, suggestions, and moral support.
I did check copyright.org, just now, btw, and right on their f.a.q. it says "Copyright law does not protect domain names" ...
[edited by: JasonRW at 2:17 am (utc) on Jan. 10, 2008]
I've never heard of any law or regulation that prevents you from linking to anything on your web site. It's your web site -- you decide the rules, aside from your host.
That said, you should bear in mind that logos and images are subject to copyright or other rights. The same is true for names -- talking about Coca Cola is different from talking about coca cola. Also, you should stay away from defamation. If you mention a web site in a true and realistic context, then you are just sharing information.
As for the Google ads I think you should review their terms and conditions.
Thanks for your post. I did remove their logo (actually just a picture of some dogs that the rescue under the previous name had sent me - I don't see that they're using it as a logo any more, but just in case, I removed it), and removed all contact information for them except the link to their website.
<talking about Coca Cola is different from talking about coca cola.>
... I'm not actually talking *about* them, just listing their name and the link to their webpage (in a table, sorted by state).
<Also, you should stay away from defamation. If you mention a web site in a true and realistic context, then you are just sharing information.>
...Yes, that's the case here - just information sharing. I haven't put any kind of "review" attached to any of the listings.
<As for the Google ads I think you should review their terms and conditions. >
... In what way? I just re-read them and I don't think I'm violating anything they stipulate.
My reaction was that an organization that angry and spiteful is probably not the type of rescue place I'd want to refer for my web site visitors.
I agree with Woz's post. Especially with the new information that the letter wasn't signed, which indicates to me that it's not actually the shelter's official policy and perhaps from some ignorant/disgruntled employee.
Send a copy of the letter to a higher-up there asking for confimation of their policy and state that you will remove the link if you don't hear back from them. If you want to spend the time, also include the other advice about pointing out other business' revenue models from advertising, lack of true copyright protection, etc.
Yes, leaving aside the irony and sarcasm in my last post (glad it gave you a laugh though), I think writing to someone official might be wise. I would actually call and try to talk to the person who makes those decisions, and then ask for that person's address so that the letter doesn't get intercepted by the same ill-informed person who sent the first letter.
>> I've never heard of any law or regulation that prevents you from linking
That doesn't necessarily matter of course. In America there is no need to prove merit before suing, so they *could* sue you no matter how foolish the case, though it seems incredibly unlikely that any lawyer for the shelter would bother.
Well, I did send another email in reply (though I didn't have any other email to use), and explained my purpose in putting up the site (which I explain on my website, which I don't think they ever bothered to look at), and explaining that I'd removed all information about their group except the link (so that residents of their state would still know the rescue organization existed).
I got a contrite reply telling me that they get lots of links from sites that are just trying to earn their own revenue off the link [still doesn't completely make sense to me, as any people brought to their organization ought to make them happy - more likely to help more animals, IMHO], that they then have no control over how they are represented on those sites, and apologized for their "harsh tone" (it was one of those "we're sorry, but..." sort of half-apologies); they then asked me to put the other information about them back up on my site. This email WAS signed, and was cc'd to the "info@" email I'd sent my letter to. Yeesh.
Par for the course. I've been a volunteer webmaster of a non-profit. Honestly, if you wanted to meet people who didn't "get" the web AT ALL, that was the place. The non-profit in question does great stuff, but understanding the web wasn't one of them.
|JasonRW asked: [Is it] illegal to link to someone's site if they ask you not to? |
Copyrights apply to original works, creations, or content. A hyperlink would hardly seem to fall into this category.
Your hyperlink to the site might better be compared to a reference or footnote in an article, or a listing in a directory (the phone book, etc). You are making reference to information; you are not presenting an original work, nor a copy of an original work.
According to current case law [chillingeffects.org] (if I understand correctly), a hyperlink is not illegal unless it leads to infringing or otherwise illegal material, or is being used to disseminate such. Unless the shelter in question were committing crimes, and unless your links were aiding in such, there is likely nothing illegal about your links.
If you were claiming to be endorsed by or somehow affiliated with the shelter, then, were the shelter's name a registered trademark [chillingeffects.org], you could be held to be in violation of their trademark. But this trademarking is unlikely for an animal shelter, and you don't appear to be making any such claims of affiliation or endorsement.
The content on the shelter's site is copyrighted, but courts have held [news.zdnet.co.uk] that linking to copyrighted material is legal.
I can see no grounds upon which the shelter could win a suit against you. However, you could still be "out" the costs of your defense. In other words, even after you "won", you'd still lose.
It may be better simply to remove the link, at least for the time being.
Just my opinion, of course; I could be wrong....
More info on this copyright [webmasterworld.com]
|The law holds that no exact-scale replica can be made: For instance, if an object is two inches (five centimeters) tall, a product of the same dimensions cannot be made without permission. But a three-inch (six-centimeter) replica would be acceptable, Hawass said. |
|In this case, however, experts say that the Egyptian legislation would not fit within U.S. and European laws, meaning they could not be enforced abroad. |
Uhh, something is amiss with your software.
The previous post was made yesterday in the "Egypt to copyright Antiquities" thread. I have no idea how it got attached to this thread.
Apologies to all for the apparent randomness of the previous, it really was attached to another topic. Please delete this and the previous post if possible from this thread. :-)
Using logo without permission could be a problem, but simple link without frames around it can't be something that can be enforced (unless maybe you link to something seriously illegal).
Regardless of the legal rights, if a site asks you to remove a link, then you should remove it.
After all, if you asked someone to remove a link, you'd like to hope they'd co-operate (however weird the request).
If you think it's a mistake by a rogue employee, they by all means email a more senior person. But I'd still remove the link.
Don't be sidetracked by their rudeness and ignorance; they are probably quite nice to dogs.
|My beef is with their claim that my simply *linking* to their site is illegal if they don't give permission. |
Then they must know more about the web than the man who invented it:
If they publish a website, then they accept the usual rules of conduct for websites.
|...and was cc'd to the "info@" email I'd sent my letter to. Yeesh. |
I hope they read it - and learned something. Sounds like a case of a volunteer interpreting the rules so broadly that everything gets caught in the net. I can see why they might not want links from a MFA site in a bad neighborhood - although even there I don't know that they'd be able to do anything about it legally.
IMVHO, you handled this in the best way possible. And kudos for being so conscientious about what ads you block - not everyone would do that. (From the mother of an adopted cat. - And, no, I don't own a beagle. I actually had Snoopy in mind when I picked the name.)
[edited by: Beagle at 3:31 pm (utc) on Jan. 21, 2008]
Yea, the logo is the only thing that could be a problem. I would take the logo off and leave the link as there isn't a damned thing they can do about a link on your site...their legal council will laugh them out the door, it's that absurd. The person you talked to there sounds like he has a screw loose or something.
Be sure to put a "no follow" in the link.
|They never gave me permission to link to them, and if I don't remove the link to their site in four days I will be contacted by their legal council. |
Animal shelters are often non-profits run by a hired manager and a number of paid and/or volunteer employees. All of this is overseen by a board of directors.
If I were a betting man, I'd wager the person who sent you this email was some individual with a personal burr under his or her saddle, not someone speaking on behalf of and with the blessings of the organization.
|...and I would love the idea of not giving them traffic... except that it is the animals who will suffer if people don't adopt them. Those animals at this (no-kill) shelter will be fine, but the shelter will not be able to rescue others who will, in turn, be killed. |
I'd be careful how far I went with this line of thought. After all, if it's really the animals you're concerned about instead of the ad revenue, then removing the ads should be an easy decision. Pick your priority, stick with it and proceed from there.
|My beef is with their claim that my simply *linking* to their site is illegal if they don't give permission |
Not long ago I purchased a box of old photographs at an estate auction. One of the photos showed the grand opening (from 100 years ago) of a retail store in a particular nearby city. I advertised that photograph for sale on craigslist. Someone emailed me and told me historic items like that belonged in the local museum and I was subject to a fine and imprisonment if I kept it and didn't donate it.
I got a good laugh out of it. I suggest just ignoring such small-minded and anal people.
It's been more than a decade since the most famous link lawsuit in which Ticketmaster sued MSN for linking to specific Ticketmaster pages.
This never went to a judge or jury, as the firms settled privately and MSN stopped linking.
The situation isn't the same, as MSN was doing a lot of deep linking which allowed MSN Sidewalk users to bypass Ticketmaster's navigation and content. Still, it's worth noting that Microsoft didn't thumb their nose at Ticketmaster and claim that all links are always legal.
I think it would be hard to argue that a single home page link on an appropriate site (e.g., not adult or otherwise objectionable) is some kind of misuse of their intellectual property. But, as others have noted, being right doesn't mean you can't get sued. The threat in this case sounds kind of weak, though.
Personally, I would write up an article about the organization and place it on the site. Copy there TEXT word for word. Explain your point of views directly on the site. To me it sounds like your site isn't in it for the money, just the opposite. Then post a link to there site anyway and state that if they still wish to adopt from them the can do so by that link. You may put yourself in a legal bind if they get a lawyer stupid enough to file suit. However you will be doing the correct thing.
... and anyway, do they really have the money to waste on lawyers?
I'll bet it's an idiot webmaster (Yes, they do exist!), not the organization's policy.
Chilling Effects has info about the legality of linking to other web sites:
I'm pretty sure that a link to their main page isn't something they will get successful at forbidding you.
Take down trademark and copyrighted info like logos and any text you can also find on their site.
Make sure to also remove it from archives like archive.org if you can't proof you have had permission anymore.
Chilling Effects piece looks good.
Links would indeed seem like references; deep links akin to giving page number in a book or research publication.
I can't see that just because a site asks you to remove a link to their site, you should do so.
Sad state of affairs when can do something legal and above board, yet still wonder if might get sued.
Esp in this case; good that further communication has helped.
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