It looks like we may have a new deep linking case developing here in the U.S. Belo, owner of the Dallas Morning News and other papers, along with a bunch of radio stations, has sent a cease and desist order to the operator of BarkingDogs.org demanding that he remove all deep links to the DallasNews.com site, and only link to the DallasNews home page. (See: [wired.com...] )
Belo maintains that deep linking is an "unauthorized use" of copyright-protected content. A company spokesman told Wired, "this is our content and we should have some control about where and in what way it is used." The DallasNews web site's terms of service declares deep linking a no-no in a paragraph that also forbids hacking their web site; it seems to me they suggesting that deep linking approximates piracy and online breaking and entering.
So, this media company wants to force users to enter their sites via the home pages because that's where they have the prime advertising. But why not just solve the problem technologically and design their sites to route deep link followers to the home page? Why, instead, do they send some legal-sounding letter to another web site owner?
Belo has the right to handle visitors who come to their sites via deep links however they want to. But I do not believe those rights extend to the content or behavior of other web sites that link to theirs.
Now: when you deep link, is there a difference between deep-linking to an article and linking to the printer-friendly version of that article? The printer-friendly version on many sites does not have site navigation or ads, but does have branding. When I e-mail a friend a link to a news article, I often send them a link to the printer-friendly version. That way they don't have to bother with the distractions. But when I put such links on any of my web sites, I link to the regular version. I suppose I'm conscious of an ethical difference between sharing with a friend and sharing with the whole world. But then again, the above link to Wired goes straight to the ad-free printer version. My bad.