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Do I need to seek permission to the reference sites if I want to direct my visitors to read their manual or technical publication?
You do not need their permission to link to that content.
But you do need permission before reproducing that content on your site - whether on your pages, or by framing their pages.
But Links Are Fine. ;)
Better idea. Go ahead and ASK permission! Why?
The other site may be so impressed / surprised that they link right back! Think about it.
Instead of "We have linked to your site and expect a link back or we will yank your new link .."
you are just asking permission to link over, no strings attached.
Its good manners and better psychology all the way around.
If they don't link back, don't fuss about it, move on to the next resource.
For crying out loud, don't scrape their content. -Larry