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Deep linking forbidden in Europe

Watch out with reciprocal links: you could end up in the court room

   
12:11 pm on Nov 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Yesterday, I came across this legal snippet of information and I did an article about it for my own web site. But then I thought it might be of interest to European Web masters, so I am posting my article here as well. If this is the wrong forum, my apologies, but I looked carefully and thought this might be the best one to post it.

Here's the article:

Deep linking is a legal grey area, but in Europe it's clear as crystal: you can't do it without risking court cases in which the plaintiff has a fair chance of winning. Europe has strict database protection legislation and some companies wanting to ban deep linking to their web sites have successfully used this legislation to ban deep linking without prior explicit consent.

The Database Protection Directive passed into the respective EU members' national legislation sometime during 1998. The Directive states that databases developed and maintained in the European Union are protected against unauthorized extraction and reuse for 15 years, regardless of whether the content itself is eligible for copyright protection. If the database owner can prove that substantial new investments have been made in the database, the protection period can even be extended for a further 15 years.

Straightforward republishing of content from another site without permission understandably is against the law. But in Germany and several other countries in the EU, court cases have been won by plaintiffs whose content as such wasn't republished. Other sites simply deep linked to pages on the web site, thereby not entering the plaintiff's web site through the home page. Newsletter publishers are typical examples: they usually publish links to interesting pages other than the home page on a web site.

The bottom line is that every organisation engaging in deep linking and active within the European Union, should be made aware of this legislation and the possible consequences.

12:30 pm on Nov 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member fathom is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Interesting article erikv.

I would think reciprocal links, where the potential plantiff has provided permission would be ok though.

I would however, be cautious myself and get it in writing, things can change very quickly with online relationships.

12:38 pm on Nov 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



This was one of the first cases ever judged.
[webmasterworld.com...]

Very interesting, and it has caused a lot of discussion all around the "net" world.

1:41 pm on Nov 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member heini is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Without going to deep into details here this is mostly an attempt at protecting copyright holders rights. Problem is the decisions made show a poor understanding of the nature of the web.

First it would be pretty easy for every newspaper and other publishers to exclude spiders from their material.

Second the decisions made show a very debatable understanding of what a link is. Claiming a link is similar in nature to republishing the linked material, like Google's and other SE's cache do it, is ridiculous, IMO.

2:59 pm on Nov 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



>>I would think reciprocal links, where the potential plantiff has provided permission would be ok though.

Yeah, you're right. I got a bit carried away. But I still think it's good to be careful, and I also think it's a very stupid way to interpret a law that's designed to protect database data.

>>Second the decisions made show a very debatable understanding of what a link is. Claiming a link is similar in nature to republishing the linked material, like Google's and other SE's cache do it, is ridiculous, IMO.

Not your opinion only. It IS ridiculous and indeed, they DON't understand what a link is. In my opinion, if you don't want another site deep linking to your content, you can take appropriate measures such as redirects IMMHO.

8:14 pm on Nov 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator 10+ Year Member



It's not a case of deep linking is forbidden in Europe. It's about massive crawling, information gathering AND linking to deep content that's the case here.

Not a problem for the everyday webmaster that links to a site here and there, but a problem for sites that build their content on (deep) linking to other sites without permission.

Maybe the search engines will have problems in the long run, but let's not get carried away here by saying linking to other sites can put you in court. That's not the case.

The points made about robots.txt is good. Put up a robots.txt and disallow the bot you don't want in. If they go in anyway, you basically have a court case. There's examples of case where robots.txt have been used to present a case - and cases have been won by arguing that the violatior didn't respect the robots.txt.

9:16 pm on Nov 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member heini is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Some very good points here, Rumbas. I was referring (without really saying so though) to deeplinking to news databases.
Consequences are merely related to search engines. Who knows, perhaps here is one of the reasons why Google only does english news so far.
Gilbert Wayenbourgh from Deepindex who have just put up a french language news engine is well aware of the problem. They have a routine installed where interested parties can request to drop any litings to their material immediately.
What has been in court so far has been decided on a case by case basis. I do not think the final word is spoken in this matter.
Anyway, consequences for "normal" webmasters? zilch as far as I can see.
4:27 pm on Nov 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator 10+ Year Member



I agree with there Heini. I don't see any consequences for normal webmasters. Well, unless they are running agressive bots and providing a large volume of substancial links to deep (news)content.

As I see it, it would be taking the very nature of out the Web if linking to other sites was illegal.