Re: Links to copyrighted material

From: J. Christopher Carr <JCARR[_at_]>
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 10:01:57 -0400

> This has probably been covered before, but I am rather new to this
> list. The question is: Are there any copyright implications of
> hyperlinking to copyrighted material? It seems that sites like
> CNET, have made this their business model, and I was curious if
> they linked with permission or not. And whether they paid any sort
> of licensing fees or not.
> I can understand how it would be in the best interest of the destination
> site to be linked to a site like CNET, it would increase the traffic
> to the site. However, if one wished to stop someone from linking to a
> copyrighted site without permission, are there grounds?
> Chris Carter
> The Tenagra Corporation

Under most circumstances, I see no grounds. By the very nature of the Web, it is patently unreasonable to place material on it and expect no one to link to it.

Besides, linking isn't copying. A link is nothing more than an instruction to the local browser to fetch the information and display it; thus, the person who programs to link never needs to copy the information himself, he only needs to know where it is. If anyone is copying, it is the user who follows the link. But, again, anyone who puts material on the web must accept that it must be temporarily copied if anyone is going to read it.

But, consider some more subtle forms of linking. Some months ago, I posted the following hypothetical to this list: Suppose a webmaster imbeds an <img> tag in his home page which points to an image on another company's site, such that the other company's logo appears on his own page. Again, he need never copy the image himself; rather, he has caused the local browser of anyone visiting his page to fetch the image and display it so. Not a copyright violation, but probably false designation of origin, fraud, unfair competition, trademark, or any of a number of other possible causes of action depending on the context. This sort of thing has become common in the context of "This page optimized for Browser X" with an image or "We support the Black Ribbon campaign" etc. But what if it's unauthorized?

J. Christopher Carr, Librarian
Darby & Darby, P.C.                   |  e-mail:       JCarr[_at_]
805 Third Avenue, 27th Floor          |  phone:                   212/527-7615
New York, NY 10022-7513               |  fax:                     212/527-7645
Received on Wed Sep 18 1996 - 14:03:40 GMT

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